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The Thing

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When Jane had come to Darcy begging for her support and company while she attended 'this thing with Thor' Darcy had been slow to agree. Jane's commitments (superhero boyfriend aside) ran to some pretty dry stuff. Scientific and political summits, guest lectures and, one particularly memorable time, a high school career day.

It was, of course, entirely Darcy's own God-Damn fault for not picking up on the rather vital inflection in Jane's voice when she'd made the request. Because 'this thing with Thor' was, in fact, a Thing. An actual, honest to God(s?), gathering of the big players of the nine realms (well, the peaceable ones) in Asgard. Otherwise known as a 'Thing'. Because that wasn't confusing or anything.

Darcy had been mercifully spared from actually attending the Thing, however her presence was required over the course of the games, hunts and feasts that were to follow. It seemed that there really weren't many who could party with the aplomb and conviction of the Æsir. There wasn't a lot to complain about, her misgivings about leaving Earth aside, Asgard knew how to treat their guests.

The room she'd been given was breathtaking, even if it was only a minor guest room. White marble dominated, the walls and floor carved into artistic scenes of frolicking maids and inlaid with rose marble and gold detail. Shimmering gold and dusky pink silk draped around the room, softening it. In the centre a large stone dias dominated, providing a base for her bed. Again soft pink and gold silk gave the bed a soft and inviting look, not to mention the multitude of pillows that seemed to beg to be transformed into a pillow fortress. It seemed that the Asgardians were intent on putting the Four Seasons out of business. No five star hotel could hold a candle to the opulent grandeur, or surprisingly touching thoughtfulness, of her hosts.

Still, Darcy sighed as she surveyed herself in a large gilt-framed mirror, even Gods got it wrong occasionally. The stunning dress that had been laid out for her, presumably for the evening feast, was a poor fit. That's what you get for having specs a porn star would envy. There was no doubting the quality of the beautiful gown, the soft pink (gender-casting much?) silk slip hugged her breasts and hips, but sat comfortably about the waist. It fell to the floor in box pleats, each pleat parting to reveal a cream brocade that couldn't possibly have been made by hand. The slip was secured by a cream underbust corset with gold fastenings, and that was where the outfit came undone. It elevated her (admittedly not inconsiderable) bust to somewhere in the stratosphere. It was obscene. Darcy was certain she'd be able to rest her chin, perhaps even a few drinks, on her breasts. Not that they weren't bitchin' but it would be nice to attend a banquet of Gods without some woeful faux pas like, say, a nip slip. As it stood, each breath saw her areole peek out from the plunging neckline.

God, what she wouldn't give for her trusty Hollywood Tape!

The buttery soft silk provided no barrier against the gentle breeze that plucked against her skin and teased at her nipples. She was pretty much ready to cut some diamonds.

Really, all she needed to do was whack some pasties on and she could easily be confused for the evening's entertainment.

The gold brocade slippers were far too small, but since her skirts fell fully to the ground she didn't feel too bad about wearing her red Chucks instead, no one would know. It was, Darcy had to admit, just another fantasy dashed. She'd always wanted to be one of those girls that rocked the period costumes, always figured she'd do justice to any sort of renaissance get-up. Alas, the opposite was true. Her cups, as they say, runneth over and she didn't think that anyone would appreciate her attending the feast in a toga fashioned from her bed sheets.

A knock echoed through the room and Darcy quickly wound her hair up and secured it with one of the small gold combs on the dresser (surely not real gold?).

At the door was a rather tasty surprise. He identified himself at Fandral, 'your humble and thankful escort for the evening'. He even made it a full three seconds before clapping his eyes on her chest and biting his lower lip.

~*~

It was, Loki noted with no particular degree of excitement, his birthday. Or an approximation thereof. After having known so many it was nigh impossible to keep them straight. After two years of imprisonment (both peculiarly long and fleeting), it had been decreed that he would dine in the Great Hall. A boon of sorts for good behaviour.

...or at least slightly less awful behaviour. Loki had never been known to lean toward good behaviour. Still, with his magic largely suppressed at Odin's behest and his movements throughout Asgard greatly restricted, he came as close to well-behaved as he'd ever been. It was a completely unsatisfactory state of affairs.

He sat at a trestle table far removed from his family. His father's gracious gesture would only carry so far and though Loki had had a mind to turn down the offer (slighted, as he was, and cast into social obscurity wedged next to a wary farrier and his family) it had been too long since he'd last had company that did not regard blunt force trauma and chariot races as worthy of painfully detailed recount.

From where he sat he could see his fam - his former family - making merry, seated at a great table, surrounded by many notable personages from throughout the realms. Thor's laugh boomed throughout the hall and Loki clutched at the tumbler in his hand. It was near empty and he turned to look for a serving girl. The farrier and his family had slunk away after the bulk of the food had been consumed, all horrified to have found themselves sharing a table with the disgraced prince of Asgard. No matter, Loki preferred to be alone, at leisure to enjoy his food and mead, to watch as he pleased...

Of course his enjoyment would be increased twofold if he were to be served in a timely fashion. Again he surveyed the room for any who might serve him.

Ha. His lips twisted at the thought. And who will serve you, Bastard prince?

He kicked out his heels, crossed his arms across his chest and eyed the king's banquet table again. Thor sat, alongside his Midgardian woman, flanked by his usual assortment of warriors, recounting some brave, valiant (and perhaps even true) tale. No shortage of serving wenches up there. Indeed it was considered an honour to attend the premier family of Asgard and thusly was a station reserved for the fairest of the lowly daughters, or the offspring of those with the appropriate titles, but inadequate funds or connections.

One such sweetling had quite forgotten her station, no doubt owing to a generous invite from his soft-hearted brother, and was seated beside the Midgardian woman (Jane, he knew her name but eschewed its use) and Fandral. The woman was clearly out of her depth. Her clothes, though of good quality, did not fit her well and though Loki had no qualms with the sight of such a buxom maid tucked into a tight gown, he noted that she tugged at the neck of her gown at every opportunity.

It was not at all uncommon for lesser families to urge their daughters to serve not only the æsir's appetites for food and drink, but to tease their baser appetites in hope of gaining a better financial or social standing. Mind, with all the delectable flesh that this dark haired wench had on display, he could fault no man for taking what she so clearly offered.

Loki observed with mild curiosity as the girl stood and leaned down to speak to Jane who nodded and pointed toward the back of the hall. Fandral seemed to drink in her every curve as the movement brought her lush full breasts down to the level of his eyes. Loki was powerless to keep the sneer from his face. Oh, yes, she may be a most delectable comfit but he imagined that, much like a comfit, once the colours and sweetness were stripped back she'd be nothing but peasant fare of nuts and seeds. Still, given his detention and prior occupation it had been decades since Loki had indulged in even that much. Had his father not said that Loki was at liberty to take his pleasure as he saw fit this eve? Did that not extend to having one such lush and buxom maid warm his sheets for a few athletic hours? A night between her thighs would tide him over for whatever remained of his interminable imprisonment. Loki adjusted the suddenly heavy weight of his cock beneath the table.

Oh, yes, she would do nicely.

The dark-haired beauty excused herself and passed behind the warriors, briefly stopping as Fandral latched onto her wrist and pulled her down to speak directly into her ear. She blushed, nodded and then continued. Whatever had passed between Fandral (that whoreson) and the girl had pleased the warrior greatly, he sat back with a wide smile and watched her thread her way through merrymakers toward the back of the hall. She was, he noted as she descended from the dias and joined the rest of the mere mortals, simply lovely. Inky curls framed her face and trailed down the nape of her neck to tumble over her shoulders. Her breasts - Loki's tumbler crushed in his grip - men would wage wars to take liberties with such fine breasts.

Not he, he was a God, but he could understand the allure. Lesser men could write sonnets about such attributes. Full and ripe, made for a man's hands. Or his mouth.

Even disgraced, Loki was still recognised as a prince of Asgard. She would be humbled, blessed, when he condescended to grant her his favour. She would demure, play coy, as all maids must. But such pretty play would be easily put aside with a few well crafted lover's words. No more than he'd used for any other strumpet, he knew some poems that had proven effective in the past. It would be worth it by the time he had her skirts over her head... then again, she was far too lovely to be hidden. He would undress her, slowly. The second time at least.

Her path would bring her right past his table. Loki felt the pull of a genuine grin. Oh, but he ached for this.

The banquet had fallen to its usual level of thinly veiled debauchery (at least down at this level) and those at liberty to move away had done so, leaving Loki very much alone and granting him a wide berth. Still, it was perhaps the only benefit of being positioned at such a lowly table - he sat between the young maid and the outdoor amenities. When she was finally within earshot he brandished his mangled tumbler and spoke clearly. "Woman! Attend me."

Yes, that would do quite nicely. It had been years since he'd spoken to a woman other than Frigga.

The wench stopped in her tracks and turned uncertainly, as if looking for another who might answer his call. No such luck, this sweet confection of all that was womanly was alone in his company. If any had chosen to look their way, perhaps, they might have noted the exchange. But drink and music proved far too tempting a diversion for the remaining revellers.

Finding no one in their immediate vicinity she turned her attention to him, her eyes growing wide, nostrils flaring with recognition. Oh, yes, my sweet, it is I. Your prince.

"Erm..." the sound issued from her throat, broken, unsure. She looked around again. Then continued as though she meant to ignore him!

"You court my displeasure, girl!" Loki snapped, "Attend me at once, and do so with mead if you value your pretty hide."

Again she looked around, as if unable to believe that she stood in his presence, her gaze slid to the exit with naked lust. Perhaps he had been too quick to deem her worthy. Loki would not take an addlepated woman to his bed. He required beauty, but no great brilliance. However, if she could not follow simple instruction, she would make for poor bed sport.

He watched her expectantly as she fumbled at a nearby table. She sighted a pitcher beneath a shimmering candelabra and snatched it. Her nose scrunched up as she surveyed the contents, but with a shrug she thumped it down on the table before him. Globular clumps of tallow wax swam in the dregs of the mead pitcher. Well, he hoped she was a better fuck than she was a serving wench.

Still, she continued to edge toward the exit. "There is wax in this, girl." Loki allowed his voice to convey his irritation.

"Can't you just, y'know, pick it out?"

"Pick it ou-" Loki near lost his composure as he echoed her words.

With a shrug she turned to leave. Her disrespect could not be borne. Loki marshalled his residual power, a paltry echo of what he'd once had, but enough to momentarily stiffen her skirts with frost and send her crashing toward the floor. Then it was a simple matter of snagging one delicate flailing hand and hauling her across the table, sending cups and platters flying, and into his lap. She landed soundly across his lap with a slight bounce, the movement edging the blush of her nipples out of her dress. Oh, yes. The disagreeable shrew would do nicely. He'd never been one for pain play with his women, but the thought of smacking the lush arse pressing tight against his stiff shaft brought a rush of blood to his guts.

"Are you out of your freaking mind?!" Loki banded his arms tightly about her as she began to protest and struggle in earnest. "Wait, of course you are. Jesus, let me go!"

Ah. Not an Asgardian then. Unfortunate, as he'd been expressly forbidden from interfering with any not of his own realm over the course of the banquet. Still, the damage was done. Her struggles served to do nothing but cost her her modesty as her lush tight nipples went from 'precariously covered' to 'wickedly exposed'.

Well, Loki was nothing if not a gentleman. He grinned deeply as he dropped his mouth to suckle one sweet fleshy gem, his hand rising to span across the other. It would not do for any wandering eyes to happen across his pet, exposed as she was. He wished, not for the first time, that he still had command of his power. In that moment he'd give anything to cloak them in darkness, to duplicate himself and surround her, to slow her blood with cold while heating her nerves... So much he could have done to her.

Her hand tightened in his hair, verging on a pleasurable sort of pain. Her breath hitched as she gave a delectable mewling sort of noise, caught between a protest and a plea. Oh, this one was responsive. And yet...

She stiffened in his arms seconds before Thor's voice cut through the hall, his tone relaying a wealth of displeasure. "You will unhand the maid at once, Loki!!"

With a wary sigh he removed his mouth and hand, then tugged the bodice of her dress back into place.

"I apologise," he spoke softly to her, dragging his knuckle over the pale swell of her breast, "But it appears I have an audience with my brother. Perhaps another time."

She smiled tightly at him before unleashing her charming and eminently Midgardian reply.

"Fuck off."

Chapter Text

"Have you no regard for what you have done?! No inkling of the severity of your actions?!"

Loki surveyed his nails as Thor paced a path into the stone floor of his private chambers. "Enlighten me, brother mine." Though Loki was not fool enough to have misunderstood the repercussions of his actions there was some amusement to be had in watching Thor unravel before his very eyes.

When all was said and done, Loki would be returned to his rooms - no more than a gilded prison - and even this pitiable admonishment was preferable to counting the walls of his own Hell.

"On the eve of the Thing, the very night Asgard would display its most admirable traits to all the realms, you see fit to ravish an unwilling Midgardian woman, not to mention a dear friend of Jane's, on a banquet table in full view of those we would seek to ally with?! You have slighted the maid, you have disrespected her very planet and you have disgraced us all!"

Loki sighed. No wonder she'd looked at him with such confusion, it was a miracle that she'd not screamed or swooned in his presence. He understood that he was still persona non grata on Midgard. The only real marvel was that she had not feared him. Resisted, yes, but not feared. "The disgrace, brother, is entirely mine. It bears no reflection upon Asgard."

"Are you so blind, Loki?" Thor stopped to rake his fingers angrily through his hair, "As long as we continue to harbour you here, your actions reflect upon all of us. Even now there are those that feel you have not met true justice for your failed attempt to take Midgard. Now you would treat an envoy from that very place so poorly -"

"I thought her a serving wench."

"You didn't think!" Thor's shout reached a volume Loki had never before heard. "For all your formidable intellect it seems that in this instance you were driven by your cock!"

Indeed, Thor spoke well enough to make that very part of him (still half-hard in salute to the maid's sweet curves) go limp at the thought. It was true, perhaps, that his actions had not been as well-measured as they might have been.

Thor sighed roughly and threw himself down into a lushly upholstered lounge. This time he spoke more gently. "Are you that driven to distraction by your incarceration, brother? Of all women you pick this one? Your indiscretion could ruin us all. Had I known... of your need I would have sent an agreeable woman to you. But never before had celibacy seemed to vex you."

Oh, marvellous. His brother offering to bring him a whore. How much more indignity would he be expected to endure this eve?

Just a bit more, it seemed, as the All Father swept into the chamber, a wave of contained anger and finely woven blue and gold robes.

"What tricks do you play this eve, boy?" His voice was level, measured.

Loki knew better than to dissemble. "No trick, my liege."

"Ah, so of all the women, all the great beauties of the nine realms you desired this one?"

Loki saw at once the weakness that Odin meant to exploit, "She was nearest."

"And millennia of control, of disdain for mortal women... forgotten? Are your prejudices shifting, Loki? I would be pleased to hear it."

"Then I fear my answer would displease." Loki looked down to his own boots and pinched the bridge of his nose. He had lived to see so many years pass and yet this damnable night seemed endless.

"That is unfortunate," Odin moved smoothly throughout the room, surveying Thor's collection of weapons and pausing to lift one odd pink object, a contraption of lacy gossamer and curved wire...

Thor jumped quickly to relieve Odin of the burden, "That is... Lady Jane's."

An intimate garment, one he had noted in the advertisements on Midgard. Should his Midgardian own any such vile devices he would see her relieved of them swiftly. Such a bounty should never be fettered...

Wait. His Midgardian? Loki considered throwing himself from the window. Alas, he had grown accustomed to such perilous drops. It was not the fall that wounded, it was surviving that tested a man's strength and sanity.

"Unfortunate?" He ventured, returning to Odin's original business.

"Yes, I had hoped your behaviour indicated some... tender feelings toward the girl. It would make your penance easier."

"My penance?"

Odin stopped and turned to him, a hard smile splitting his face. "Did you think this would go unpunished? You are to attend Lady Darcy for the remainder of the festivities in a manner that will be a credit to this house and to my name. I am not a host to suffer the mistreatment of a woman in my care, much less by the hands of my own kin!"

Lady Darcy? Oh, but Midgardians had ridiculous names.

"I shall attend her... from my prison?"

"You shall have a temporary stay of imprisonment, so that you may best prove yourself a penitent and attentive escort. You are free to move around Asgard as you see fit, but heed me in this Loki, your every movement had best be with the Lady's joy and pleasure in mind. For if, after the next five days of festivity have passed, you do not find yourself firmly in her good graces I shall leave you to the tender mercies of Niflheim, where they've a prison for you to cool your ardour."

Loki allowed his head to thud back against his chair. It would have been kinder to leave him to his prison.

"Father?" Thor's voice wavered with foreign uncertainty. "You know that none would champion Loki more than I, none have faith in his redeemable qualities more than I... But Lady Darcy... she is not as many women are. She is, for all my brotherly love of the woman my Jane would call 'sister', somewhat irksome. She may... move Loki to violence." Thor paused to regard Loki's sprawled form. "Or worse. She has demonstrated a sway over his base instincts. I am not certain-"

"Fear not," Odin held up his hand, a particular glint in his eye. "That is the final part of Loki's punishment. For the duration of his association with Lady Darcy he shall be unmanned."

Loki scarcely had time to comprehend what was happening as Odin made a lazy gesture of the hand toward him and his guts and crotch began to burn. Just as quickly as the hateful sensation had taken hold, it receded. Loki made a desperate grab for his cock, feeling the familiar weight of it in his trousers.

"Well," Odin shrugged and turned to stalk toward the door, "Impotent at the very least. The punishment must fit the crime. Lady Darcy is not for you, Loki. If you forget that, I assure you that your inability to perform will prove a swift reminder. Feel free to test the enchantment when you are alone. I've no desire to watch you fail in this regard also."

With that, Odin left Loki and Thor to star across the still room at each other. Thor seemed particularly horrified as his eyes dropped to Loki's crotch. "Surely he... Surely not? Has he truly-"

"Unmanned me?" Loki released his grip on his own trousers. He shut his eyes and drew in a fortifying breath. "This is hardly an arousing situation, no matter how lustrous your hair. But I feel the truth of it, even the All Father is not cruel enough to jest about such a thing."

Thor crossed to awkwardly pat Loki on the shoulder, his gaze still transfixed between his legs. "Then there is only one thing for it. You must win the favour of Lady Darcy."

"Yes, I believe I must." Loki stood and shook out the folds of his coat, "Have you any word to share from behind enemy lines? Any action or thing that will please the lady?"

"Are you familiar with the Midgardian custom of jello-shots?" Thor asked, lips twitching.

"Alas, no."

"Then no. But I might suggest you attempt to make amends this very night. Many women grow calm after rest. I have no reason to believe this is true of Lady Darcy."

~*~

Darcy threw herself rather theatrically onto her bed, dragging a pillow over her face to muffle her half-hearted scream. "Oh God Jane! I've fucked up pretty massively!"

Jane sat, still dressed in her long lean silk gown (no damn corsets there) and soothingly patted Darcy's knee. Darcy wore a threadbare Peaches concert tee and a pair of Captain America briefs (Stark was a wicked Secret Santa), she curled onto her side and hugged the pillow. "Can they, like, deport me from Asgard for being a skank?"

"I think Loki can probably own the bulk of what happened. He, err, seemed to be holding you quite tightly."

"The man knows how to hold. Clearly he's gone insane. I mean... In front of everyone?!"

This time Jane smoothed a hand over Darcy's hair, "Are you okay? He seemed... forceful."

Darcy pressed a hand to her forehead and nodded, "Look, I haven't done three Slut Walks to turn around and say now that it's okay because I was dressed like... well, the Asgardian answer to Jenna Jameson. I'll just say that I could have struggled harder." Or at all. "Loki seems to know his way around a woman's..." She vaguely gestured toward her chest.

Jane actually looked appalled at that, "You liked it?"

"Obviously not the horrendous 'hey, everybody, check out my rack!' part. But I suppose a guy can't have eons of experience and still suck at something," Darcy groaned pathetically, "That's bad, isn't it? Oh that's bad. I should be all indignant and Greer and-"

"It's pretty bad," Jane was not helping at all.

"And he's evil!" Darcy sat up and rested her back against a mountain of pink pillows. "Not even like, y'know, double-parking in a disabled zone evil. He's murderous evil. He's like Pinky and the Brain evil!"

"That's the best sort of evil you could come up with?"

"I'm stressed!"

Jane snorted, "It sounds like you're coping. I'm heading back to my room."

"If you think for a second that I'm buying this 'my room' BS, then I think you've underestimated me. Give my regards to Thor."

"Well, I'll have to wait and see if he's finished laying the hurt on Loki."

"Has it coming." Darcy's voice was muffled as she slowly slid into her pillow mountain. Mount Squish, she was going to name it.

Her bedroom door shut with a lonely little click, leaving Darcy alone to her thoughts. It was her first night on this alien planet... and hadn't she started it off with a bang?

Well, not exactly a bang. She'd have noticed if there was a bang and she was suffering from the tight aching frustration of a woman who had too long been denied any bang. No bang for Darcy.

Well, maybe. Fandral had been nice, even asking if she'd care to see the garden with him. It hadn't come to pass, not with the Loki/breasts debacle and now that she was well on her way to being disgraced in the eyes of Asgard it probably never was going to happen. Pity, Fandral had had a dashing sort of golden look about him (woeful facial hair aside) he could easily have passed as Denny Grey, the Quaterback of her senior year. She's never run in the same revered social circles as Denny and thus had never stood a chance, but Fandral's lingering touches had been warm and pleasant, reminding her of what she might have missed out on.

At least, until Loki had blown them out of the water with his own brand of hot and cold attentions. She could easily have burnt up in his arms, but it was the sort of burn that came from extreme cold. Even now, on top of her covers with so little on she felt a sheen of sweat grow on her skin. The evening breeze sifted in through her fine curtains and licked at her. Oh, Loki... Only a truly evil man could have left her so wound up and needy.

Darcy did not consider herself to be particularly partial to Loki himself. No, wrong! bad Darcy! it was just that he'd left her in such a wretched state of arousal. Her hands ghosted over her breasts, still painfully sensitive after Loki's treatment of them, then down, over her stomach, to her hips... Darcy lifted herself up onto her elbows, staring down her body in the flickering candlelight. She let her knees fall wide and heaved a sad little sigh as she spotted Captain America staring up at her from an odd angle. It seemed he was getting a little damp. Usually, having Steve Rogers on her panties was the sexual equivalent of a long cold shower. It wasn't that he wasn't attractive, because whoa, it was simply that she'd met him at enough functions now to know that he'd disapprove in a big way. It was sort of like having an image of your grandfather down there.

"Sorry, Steve," she whispered as she hooked her thumbs into her panties and slid them down her thighs, leaving them tangled about her ankles as she drew her feet up and parted her knees.

~*~

If not for his Godly sense of hearing, Loki might have failed to catch the gentle sigh and hitched breath that issued from within the girl's chambers. He stood before her door, poised to knock when her sighs and moans had drifted to him. At first his shoulders had tensed, anticipating some wrongdoing within, but Loki was not green enough to miss the lusty note to the sounds.

Loki's body tightened with anger. Did she, even now, entertain a man in her bedchambers? Had Fandral sought her out to make good on the promise he had made with heated glances throughout the banquet? It seemed fitting, considering Loki's very poor fortune, that he was now saddled with some Midgardian light-skirt with a voracious appetite for man flesh.

Another gasp.

He would not suffer another man to stoke the fires he had lit. Loki had taken to suppressing his Jotun nature when in Asgard, but now it seemed that the very part of himself that he despised would become the very tool he could rely upon. Odin could bind his acquired magics, but Loki was Jotun and that could not be taken from him. It was a wild, primal sort of power, one that came at great physical and mental cost. A power that he scarcely understood and barely controlled. He called upon the sleeping giant within him, shrouding himself in frost and mist, and propelling his form into the sweet lady's chamber. There he stood, frozen, gathering his breath, his wits...

The scene before him was not at all what he had anticipated.

In his long life, Loki had witnessed many great sights. He had seen men kneel before him, had unclothed goddesses, had known riches beyond imagining. Now each one seemed a pauper's pittance when compared to the wicked tableau before him. It was, he supposed, a better birthday present than any he deserved.

Lady Darcy was reclined, though not at ease, upon her bed. Her dark hair fanned out over a mass of silken pillows, her pale skin flushed with desire as her eyes clenched shut and her breaths came in stilted gasps and moans. Slim beautiful fingers strummed and dipped into the glistening secret places of her bare pussy.

Oh, his lady was positively wanton. He had heard tell, of course, of women who would perform such displays. For a price. Asgardian women were, given their modest nature, not prone to such lush displays. A pity, Loki decided. Had he ever witnessed such a thing before he might not have been so dumbstruck to watch Lady Darcy writhe and groan in response to her own hand.

If he had needed proof of Odin's vile curse, he had it now. If the sight before him could not stir him to arousal, then nothing in all the realms could. Impotent rage flushed down his spine. Even if the girl was not for him, it caused him physical anguish to know that he could not take his pleasure in her body. In any body. Perhaps not even by his own hand.

Still, he supposed, he was not limited in his imagination. There were many sins he could visit upon her body. His fingers and mouth ached with a need to toy with the honeyed flesh between her soft thighs.

Yet, if the scene in the banquet hall were any indication, it would be prudent to remain cloaked from her view as long as his powers could hold. She may be bold in the candlelit shadows of her chamber, but he suspected she would be squeamish in his presence. Foolish pointless modesty.

He would wait, and watch, as she edged closer to her much needed release. It was, after all, the gentlemanly thing to do.

Her hips bucked as her fingers increased their pace, treating her clit to the slickest, most wicked of friction. Her back ached up off her nest of pillows, the fine lines of her covered breasts and pale neck his to drink in.

It was then that he focused on her mouth, struggling, gasping, needing to articulate something so rarely spoken...

"L- ah!" The word cut away by the deft slide of her fingers. Loki leaned forward, his blunt nails digging in to his palms. L? Certainly an 'L' sound. Did she mean to -

"Lo...oh!"

Finish, woman! Finish your word!

Did she truly mean to utter his name in the throes of passion? He grinned deeply. Yes, it would do nicely that she would think of him at such a time. And how could she not? He had lavished her breasts, albeit for only a short while, with skill that hinted at his mastery of the carnal arts. She was, after all, only mortal.

Unless, of course, she meant to call the name of another. Loki's eyes narrowed, covetously tracking the flush that rode her skin. If she spoke the name of another she would surely condemn that man to death. Perhaps not now, but one day. Loki was not a man to forget and when he was restored to his former power that would be his very first task...

That is, he mentally shook himself, if he could be bothered. It was a trifling matter. No mere slip of a girl, a mortal girl could be worth any true labour on his part. She was hardly worth the troub-

Darcy came so prettily, so earnestly, that Loki lost all thought. Her hips lifted briefly, her fingers stilling moments before her knees snapped shut, as if the sensations she had brought upon herself we too much to bear. Perhaps they were.

In that moment, all concentration fled and Loki was uncloaked at once, leaving him to do nothing but stand guiltily at the foot of the Lady's bed.

~*~

Darcy stretched out in a cosy post-orgasm haze. Her arms stretched well above her head, her fingers toying with the intricate carvings on her bed head. Through heavy lidded eyes she caught a flash of blue-

"Jesus Fucking Christ! Loki?! What are y- I can't... What!?"

Darcy grabbed for the nearest cushion. It was a ridiculously small pink affair that did nothing to hide her from his view. With a squawk she yanked at her bedding in a feeble attempt to cover herself. It wasn't until she was safely cloistered in her sheets that she wriggled down to haul her panties back into place.

What an evil, creepy, perverted piece of shit! Watching her like that! How the hell had she never even noticed? Was this some of his bizarre magical fuckery?! She thought he'd been stripped of all his powers.

And, okay, so Loki may have featured in her fantasy somewhere between Benedict Cumberbatch and Tom Hiddleston which pretty much made her just as creepy and warped as him - because who fantasises about Hitler V2.0 - but what right did that give this blue freak to-

Darcy flipped her bedding down and fixed him with a hard stare, "Were you blue, just a moment ago?"

"Are all Midgard women bare between the thighs?"

A pink cushion sailed toward his head. "Leave."

"I am here to share good tidings, Lady Darcy." He opened his palms and gave a simple bow.

"Oh, you know my name now? Do you make a habit of busting into guest rooms?"

He made a fair play at looking sheepish, Darcy didn't buy it. "I heard noises of distress."

With a snort, Darcy scrambled out of her bed. She still wore only the shirt and her panties, but given what Loki had just witnessed and what he'd done earlier in the evening, the outfit was positively virginal. "Did I seem distressed to you?"

"Not overly so. Though you do seem in want of a man."

Surely Darcy only imagined that he shifted uncomfortably on his feet? "I assure you, I do not want for a man."

"Excellent," Loki clapped his hands together, "I would thank you to remember that when Fandral calls upon you in the morning with some asinine request that you visit the gardens with him, or perhaps visit his chambers to see his etchings."

"After what happened in the Great Hall? I'd be lucky if anyone talks to me. My name is now synonymous with the Whore of Babylon!"

"Whore of...? I think you underestimate my kinfolk's hatred of me, there are many who would blame me for what transpired and even more that would bestow kindness and gifts upon the sweet Lady Darcy who has withstood my dastardly advances. Indeed, it can only elevate your standing in Odin's house... And I would not be so quick to doubt Fandral's tenacity. If you would excuse my indelicacy, he is a famed cunthound."

Darcy choked at his choice of words.

Loki seemed to stop, his eyes drifting to her panties, his expression going dark. "That man, on your undergarments. Does he claim you? It is a poor man that leaves his woman to my tender mercies and a poorer man still that leaves you to take your pleasure by your own hand."

A little more choking.

"Have I not fought him?"

"He kicked your arse."

"Yes, he and his five allies. Such an even match," Loki snapped in a dry tone.

"You had an alien army."

"Apparently not a very good one."

"No shit."

A beat passed between them as Loki lazily perused her naked legs. From now on, Darcy was doing everything fully dressed. Including bathing.

"Did you want something? I mean, other than to decimate any notions I might have had about privacy."

His lips twisted, "I forget myself."

"You really do."

"I have the privilege of being your escort for the remainder of your stay in Asgard."

Right, clearly someone was punishing her. "Is that, er, necessary?"

"Necessary?" His playful tone was lost as his eyes darkened. "I am a prince of Asgard, it is an honour that I should stoop to..." He paused, took a breath and offered Darcy a thin smile. "I will come for you in the morning. There is to be a hunt, I shall squire you for the duration."

With that, Loki drew himself stiffly to his full height, heels together and bent slightly at the waist. His palm sat open in the space between them, waiting. Darcy cautiously held out her hand. Loki's chuckle was low and followed by a click of the tongue, "The other one."

Darcy shut her eyes as heat rushed up her spine. She held out her other hand, the one that had so recently been between her thighs. She could feel his grin.

"Until tomorrow," he murmured against her knuckles, just moments later she felt the heated rasp of his tongue against her fingers.

Chapter Text

Dawn rose in Asgard with all the promise and colour of a fucking Disney production. Darcy sat perched on the wide stone ledge of her bedroom window looking out at the wonders of Asgard, it was hard to maintain any semblance of her previous shitty mood. The city was laid out before her, gold-kissed and glinting with dew. The Frankensteinian mix of ancient, Art Deco and sci-fi architecture shouldn’t have worked, but flashes of lush green, glittering water and opulent gold called to her. Whatever else happened, her time here would be memorable for this view alone. She was powerless to stop her mind drawing comparisons between this golden city and its many shining gilt citizens: Thor, Fandral, Frigga and so many others all shimmered with the same light that seemed to throb throughout the city. And then there was Loki, a man so ill at ease in his own home. A man who loitered in shadows and dark places. Darcy wasn’t big on reading between the lines, but even she couldn’t ignore how much that said.

Even the air smelled different here, crisp and clear with the scant hint of wood fire smoke. She couldn’t smell any coffee, which sucked, it was hard to imagine any Godly realm that hadn’t discovered the advent of coffee. Asgard might be all that and a bag of chips, but without coffee it still wasn’t home. Darcy hugged her knees to her chest and rested her back against the cold marble wall. She’d woken early, her sleep plagued by a mixture of filthy dreams and anxiety over the coming day. How would she face anyone after the night she’d had? The whole court had witnessed her depraved introduction to the wicked Prince of Asgard and that prince had gone on to witness so much more later in the night. If what he said was true, he’d be coming for her.

Asgard was only now beginning to stir, she could catch the occasional sounds of doors opening, feet softly and swiftly passing. It seemed that the staff of the palace were pretty clued in to her sleeping patterns, she’d barely managed to roll out of bed when a plump smiling woman had shuffled in laden with clothing.

“Good morning Lady Darcy! I am Eir.”

Eir wore a simple blue dress with the sleeves rolled up, at her full height she stood with the top of her head somewhere around Darcy’s bust line. White blonde hair escaped from her white cap in lengthy tufts. Eir clicked her tongue as she deposited the garments on the foot of the bed.

“An early riser then, Lady Darcy?” She looked up, rosy cheeked and widely smiling, her hands on her ample hips.

“Oh, ah. Not normally, I just had a little trouble sleeping and-“

Eir looked around the room, her eyes turning hawklike. “I trust there is naught wrong with the room? I prepared it myself!”

“Oh! No, there’s naught – I mean nothing – wrong. I just…” Darcy shrugged and smiled lamely.

The short woman nodded sagely, her finger coming up to point at Darcy. It was very much like being spoken to by her mother. If her mother was a woman with all the dimensions of a dwarf. “I know what troubles you girl. I’ll thank you not to dwell on it further. I’ll not speak ill of a prince,” she said… then spent a few minutes doing just that. “You are not the first maid to fall into the clutches of the Dog Prince Loki,” she concluded some time later. “There’s not a soul who blames you for his foul manners.”

Darcy could only nod and perch on the edge of her bed, idly stroking the fine fabric. “Are these…?”

“For you, my Lady. That fool prince wishes to make amends with finery. Too little too late, say I. But far be it for me to judge my betters,” Eir’s face suggested she was doing just that.

Oh, Eir was fun. Darcy started to flip through the clothes, dark rich green silk with gold trimmings seemed to dominate. Eir had offered to assist with her ‘toilette’ but Darcy had declined, instead letting her put the clothes away in an annexed dressing room then wishing her a good day. Eir had beamed widely at that. There weren’t many, she explained, who would wish a maid a good day.

After an agonising few minutes Darcy had selected the plainest of the dresses, a fine white lawn slip covered with a deep green silk dress overlapping at her front and secured with a gold braid belt (which she refused to believe could be real). The gown plunged deeply at her neckline, but it was positively demure when compared to last night’s walking wardrobe malfunction and at least she could sneak a bra beneath this one. She had to hand it to Loki, he’d picked her size perfectly… and why wouldn’t he, she thought with a scowl. He’d seen more than enough of her body.

God, she wanted coffee.

Loki hadn’t been specific about when he’d come for her and Darcy wasn’t exactly certain that she wanted him to come at all. Actually, no, she was certain that she did not want him to come. She settled more firmly into the windowsill and fumbled in the deep pockets of her dress for her iPod, she had a lengthy wait before the rest of the palace was up and about and she might as well-

Her door rattled with three solid knocks. Ugh. Darcy braced herself and crossed the chamber to answer.

She quickly dropped the sneer when she realised that it was Fandral who called upon her. He stood as tall and dashing as she remembered from the previous evening. His outfit was less ‘we ride to war’ and a little more subdued. The white pants and tunic fit his wide shoulders marvellously, a light fine gold chainmail cape fastened to a large medallion on his right shoulder and draped carelessly (though, she suspected, quite deliberately) over his back. His cropped facial hair seemed to have withstood more grooming than her own hair, which was secured in a messy braid (messy by way of incompetence, not design). He held a dense bunch of white blooms, no flower she could identify. A thick sweet scent rose from the bunch

“Lady Darcy!” He ducked into a quick bow and presented the flowers, “It was my great fortune to happen upon your lady's maid this morn, she told me you had roused early and I thought that you might like to take a turn of the gardens before we break fast?”

Darcy took the flowers with a quick smile. “Erm, thanks. Heaps.”

“I regret that our plans were cut short last night. I hope you are much recovered from your ordeal?”

Actually, Darcy was starting to think she needed therapy after everything that had gone down last night, both in the banquet hall and in her own room. “Much recovered.”

It really did seem that nobody was blaming her for what had happened. Rightly so, she supposed, and it was the perfect excuse to wriggle out of her morning ‘date’ with Loki. Darcy set the flowers aside as Fandral offered up his arm, “Lead on, dude.”

~*~

Loki stalked into the gardens, more certain now than he had been in the small hours of the morning (and he’d been convinced even then) that the good Lady Darcy was merely a sprite devised by the All-Father to vex him beyond all reason. No mortal woman could possibly drive him to such frustration. His flesh alone throbbed and burned with thwarted desire and a need that he was not equipped to satisfy. He had not slept, had not even tried, preferring instead to dwell upon the lush taste, sound and sights of Darcy taking her own pleasure. Would that he could do the same.

It was a torture beyond withstanding that he was now forced to play nursemaid to the lusty lass and if that weren’t enough she’d had the audacity to slip his grasp that very morning. Had he not told her he would attend her in the morning? Had he not made his intentions (his obligation) to squire her perfectly clear?

Why then, had he arrived to find her room still and silent, the seductive smell of clean linen and woman muted by the cloying scent of flowers? Oh, and those flowers. He knew well enough who sought to please maids with paltry offerings of pilfered Ilm blooms. Amateur.

The open lawns that skirted the King’s gardens had been rigged with white sails, tables scattered about and a buffet of breads, cheeses, fruit and cold meats laid out for guests to take their morning repast. Loki stalked past the platters, he had no appetite. For food.

Darcy was easy to find, situated as she was, among the most boisterous of dining companions. Fandral had mounted his chair and was in the process of spearing a bread roll from Darcy’s plate with his dagger, no doubt recounting one of his catalogue of valorous adventures. Surely such tripe would not please her? His sneer was reflexive and pronounced as he caught her smile. She sat beside Fandral, grinning up at him with barely contained laughter. Her thick braid snaked over a shoulder that shook with mirth and the deep colour of her dress complemented her smooth pale skin. He knew it would.

Loki’s mind fumbled for the memory of any time when another had looked at him and laughed with such openness, backed with inclusive and genuine joy. Thor’s face came to mind and he thrust the memory away. Thor was a fool to support him still.

There was some small measure of satisfaction to be had in the hush that fell over the group as he plucked the roll from the dagger and draped his body into the vacant seat next to Darcy. He returned the bread to its rightful owner. “No hordes to battle today, Fandral? Nonetheless, Asgard rests safe from the tyranny of baked goods.” To Darcy, he spoke more softly, “Eat.”

“Loki.” Fandral sounded none too impressed. It was mutual. “You have been unleashed?”

“Perhaps if you spent less time playing the fool you would have learned that the All Father has bestowed upon me the unparalleled pleasure of accompanying Lady Darcy for the duration of the festivities.”

“Hasn’t she suffered enough at your hands?”

At this, the lady in question snorted. He paid her no heed as he pushed her plate closer and reissued his order. “Eat.”

“Not really a breakfast person,” she muttered as she poked at a small wedge of cheese.

“Your childish petulance grows tiring. You will need your strength, girl. We will ride for some time today, you will tire quickly.”

“Oh, er, actually,” she pushed the plate away. “Fandral and I were just going to give the hunt a miss, maybe go for a small ride. He tells me he’s not big on hunting.”

Loki pushed the plate back in front of her with such force that in nearly ended up in her lap. “Oh?” He turned to Fandral, “And what of your trophy room? Was it a boar’s head you had mounted last season?”

“Stag.” His reply was stiff as he dismounted the chair.

Loki dropped his head to spoke sotto voce in her ear. “He hunts well enough, Darcy. It is simply that in this instance he favours the hunt for quim.”

“I have credit points in English Lit,” she hissed. “I know what that means.”

“I’m sure it will prove enlightening for her to see a hunt in action.” Loki spoke to Fandral, dashing any hopes the smug bastard might have had of weaselling his way further into Darcy’s affections. “She will ride with me.” He let his tone carry his authority as he smiled blandly at the company around the table. As if to reinforce his command of this situation, Thor chose that moment to approach the table, all muscle and affability.

“Brother! It pleases me beyond telling to see you with us this morning!” Thor’s gargantuan hand clapped down on his shoulder. Loki smiled tightly. “And Lady Darcy! You look well, but I fear you could be better.”

Obviously, her state would improve if she would just damn well eat. If Darcy was in need was it not his place as her escort to tend to her?

“But Jane reliably informs me that I may have a balm for what ails you,” Thor continued as he held up a steaming silver pitcher.

Darcy sniffed the air, her smile growing with recognition. “Oh sweet baby Jesus. If you have what I think you do, Thor, you can have your way with me on this table.”

Loki nearly swallowed his tongue.

Thor threw his head back and laughed heartily, “No need, Darcy, your pleasure is reward enough.”

She stood and relieved Thor of his burden, pausing briefly to arch up and plant a firm kiss to his cheek. Loki eyed the contents of the pitcher. The thick dark brew gave off an aroma that was not unpleasant; it was even vaguely familiar from his brief time in Midgard. He would speak to Thor to secure a steady supply. He did not require Lady Darcy’s mindless fawning, of course, but it could do no harm to please her in small measures. It would not do for Odin to decide to prolong his physical incapacitation, should he displease the girl in any way.

Darcy poured herself a cup of the brew and set upon it with a fiendish glee. She savoured a mouthful then let out a wickedly carnal groan as she licked her lips and flushed with pleasure.

Loki excused himself to tend to his horse.

~*~

By about three a.m. during the previous night’s sleeplessness Darcy had begun to compile a list of all the reasons that Loki was not, in fact, at all attractive (and certainly not arousing) and that it was a mere case of her hormones flipping out. Probably owing to some interplanetary form of jet-lag. Bifrost-lag. Obviously.

Reason one was that he needed to wash his hair. Because the guy had a serious addiction to hair product and though whatever he’d used had smelled pretty freaking awesome, like a storm-lashed pine tree, she had decided to dislike it on principle.

Then there was the fact that the guy had zero understanding of privacy as a concept.

…and his sneaky, snaky, silver tongue. There was that. Because (the thing he’d done with her nipples aside) he seemed incapable of doing or saying anything nice with that mouth.

Her morning had started well enough, the gardens had boasted a breathtaking array of plant life that she was certain could not be found on Earth. Fandral had been the perfect gentleman, his palm only fleetingly touching upon the small of her back to guide her here and there. It was true that he might not be the quickest off the mark, but what his conversation lacked in substance was more than covered by his earnest enthusiasm… earnest and abundant. Five campaigns in and Darcy had jokingly suggested he hold off on the battle tales, lest they have nothing to discuss at breakfast.

He had, in all seriousness, informed her that he had noble and perilous adventures enough to recount for the remainder of her mortal life.

Which, if he’d continued, would have been a damn sight shorter than he reckoned.

Of course, dense or not, he’d moved on. Which was when Darcy had realised her error… because he’d moved on to singing. And not like bellowing Lynyrd Skynyrd or anything like that, he composed lustily bellowed ballads about her.

No word of a fucking lie.

She’d never truly considered the potential for rhyming with her name and by the time Fandral had exhausted ‘sea’, ‘plea’, ‘thee’ and (rather unfortunately) ‘gusty’ then ignored her laughingly offered ‘lusty’, ‘bourgeoisie’, ‘Kentucky’ and ‘Hepatitis B’, Darcy had decided that some names just did not lend themselves to poetry or song.

Breakfast and the subsequent arrival of the extended company of Lady Sif, Volstagg and Hogun had provided something of a buffer from Fandral’s exhausting company.

It seemed as if all of Asgard felt the need to make recompense for Loki’s misdeeds. Volstagg had produced a brightly coloured box of comfits with a wink and Hogun had quietly offered a brief compliment on the cut of her dress (something Lady Sif assured her was tantamount to a thousand stanza sonnet pronouncing her loveliness). Fandral had a second wind and launched into a rather physical redux of one of his finer tales.

It was Loki who had soured her morning and Loki who seemed intent on ruining the rest of her day with his insistence that she ride with him in the party that tailed the hunt.

“Squeeze me with your thighs,” he snapped at her as he turned back in his saddle.

“I bet you say that to all the girls,” Darcy muttered as she tried to grip his cloak without touching him. She was positive that she’d plummet to her death at any second. It might have been okay had Loki a normal horse like everybody else. But no, Loki seemed to favour something very much like a Potter-esque Thestral.

“Perhaps you’d feel more secure in front?”

Unlikely. Sitting side-saddle in his lap, atop the bouncing mount with her tits just below his nose? Not to mention held up against his chest. He already had a proven partiality to her breasts. Darcy gave up the fight and clenched her thighs about his hips, her arms wrapped firmly about his waist as she tucked her face down against his sun-warmed spine.

“There, is that not better?” One hand dropped to span her thigh and grip it. She could feel his smile.

“It’s really not. Can’t you just set me down somewhere for a nap? You can trot off and go join the hunting party. Everyone wins!”

“Unlike Fandral, I truly don’t have a taste for the hunt. I prefer game that can defend itself, much more challenging.”

“Like Earth?” Darcy shook his hand loose from her leg, his body stiffened next to hers.

“I suppose you would like an apology?” His voice was clipped, challenging.

“Me? Nah. But Erik Selvig might. Or my aunt, your minions busted up a bakery that she’d spent 26 years building up. Or the 1700 and change people who died. Or their children. Or any children, actually, because it’s hard to sleep sound in your bed when you’ve seen the sort of evil you brought to New York.”

She eyed the rapidly passing ground and weighed up her options. It wasn’t likely she’d survive the fall if she threw herself from the horse. Loki returned his hand to her thigh, squeezing it tightly as if to let her know that he’d read her thoughts.

The rest of the hunt passed in a rapid green haze as Darcy clung to Loki, breathing in the scent of leather and forest and remembering the most obvious reason not to lust after a guy like him: he was fucking insane.

~*~

For the first time in his memory, Thor was happy to hang toward the back of the hunting party. Jane rode alongside him, handling her mare well despite her misgivings. She seemed unhappy.

“You do not care for the hunt, Jane?”

“Killing animals you might or might not eat? Not really my thing.”

“You are unhappy?”

She flushed pink and rushed to assure him, “No, not really it’s just… Darcy. Is it really wise to leave her with Loki like that? I feel like we’ve betrayed her.”

Torn between loyalty to his brother and the need to care for Darcy, Thor picked his next words very carefully. “Loki is… he is much changed in her company. She tempers him.”

“You base this on… what? His flagrant display of sexual assault?”

Now, it was simply the desire to hear Jane’s uncertain knock on his chamber door later that evening that dictated his response. “My father has decreed it. Perhaps we do not see the whole of it, the All Father’s intervention would suggest as much. Even his single eye sees more than all our combined perception. I live in hope that the love of a good woman can redeem the most depraved of men.” That much was the truth. Love, magic, punishment. He would wish any and all of those things for Loki if they would restore him to the gleeful trickster he’d been in their youth.

“Darcy’s a good girl,” Jane ventured. “But I don’t know if she’s a good woman. She doesn’t always think things through.”

“Nor Loki. I still cannot fathom what madness took hold of him and spurned him on to attack Midgard. For years he was a fine asset to this realm. There are always those who would seek to trick or deceive our realm, but with Loki at hand there were none who could.”

“Can’t trick a trickster.”

“He safeguarded this realm against dishonesty.” Once. Many centuries ago.

“By being dishonest?” Jane’s voice was soft, gentle.

Thor’s jaw flexed in frustration, but he remained silent. Perhaps Jane had the right of it, perhaps Loki’s redemption was not at hand.

~*~

It had only just gone full dark and Darcy had been soundly asleep when she felt somebody poke her firmly in the cheek.

“Wha…”

“Space realm. New planet to explore and you want to sleep?!”

Jane. Fuck.

“Go explore your boyfriend.” Darcy muttered as she started to construct a pillow wall to shut out Jane. The afternoon had been filled with an assortment of games. Genders had been split and the men had taken to the outdoors to conduct an afternoon of manly pursuits that would, presumably, include much sweating and grunting (not a bad way to spend an afternoon in the right circumstances, Darcy had to admit). The women had returned to the gardens where an array of board games had awaited them. Darcy had begged off just prior to dinner, exhaustion from her sleepless night finally catching up to her.

Jane reached through the pillows and poked her again. “Seriously, we need to see this.”

“Is this a science thing? I’m too tired for science things.”

“Let’s call it a biology thing.”

“Ugh. Like osmosis? Taxonomy?” Darcy knew she’d been defeated. She kicked back her covers.

“How about we call it astrobiology?”

“Will I need to take notes?”

“Er, no. This is strictly an observational experiment.”

‘Observational’, as it turned out, meant ‘pervvy’ and half an hour later, as Darcy observed the heaving mass of naked æsir, she had to confess that Jane had earned herself a high five.

The two women had stealthily (fine, not stealthily – but with everyone off attending their various activities, did it really matter?) found their way out of the palace and down through a well-lit and oft-tread warren of caves. Lady Sif, it seemed, had done them a solid with both a heads-up and directions. God bless the sisterhood.

Darcy had accused Jane of being lost twice before their lengthy expedition came to an abrupt end as the passage opened up into a dense forest. Jane snatched her hand quickly and pressed the other against her mouth. “Quiet, we… might not be welcome.”

Instead of moving forward, to where the greenery thinned out, they edged sideways along the cliff front. The entire basin seemed to be carved out by one impressive lake, larger than the sum of maybe a dozen football fields. On almost all sides dense forest met the waterline, but as they shuffled along hidden by undergrowth they spied a beach of sorts, more mud and silt than actual sand, but it seemed to be where the men stood in various states of undress.

Moonlight lit up the lake better than any stadium lighting could have (quite possibly because they were dealing with moons, plural). The glassy surface of the lake reflected the moons brilliantly, illuminating the surrounding areas. It was a good call on Jane’s part for them to don black cloaks.

“It’s called a svimma.” Jane whispered as they settled into a position atop a moss-slicked boulder. An overhanging tree provided coverage, without overly blocking their view of the group (roughly two dozen men). “Quite literally ‘swim’. It’s the last game for the day.”

“It’s a race?”

“Eh, not quite. Sif tried to explain it, but all I really took away from it was ‘bare-arsed naked’. Apparently the victor is the one who can keep his head above water. The entire aim is to hold your opponent under water. They’ll start by one-on-one tournaments, then it winds up with a free-for-all.”

“I really hope you don’t mean that in a creepy way.”

Jane’s eyes widened in alarm. “I didn’t. Until you said that.” Her horrified gaze fixed on the water’s edge where most of the men had finished disrobing and were boldly moving into the lake.

Darcy whistled low, “They aren’t shy, are they?”

Jane made no attempt to answer. She watched as Thor strode, head and shoulders back, into the water. Darcy suppressed a joke about his ‘hammer’, it seemed poor form to check out your friend’s boyfriend. She turned her gaze to Fandral’s delightful, bronzed arse. “You’re my favourite friend, you know that?”

“I’m your only friend,” Jane whispered with a playful nudge.

It was true. It had become increasingly difficult to make and keep friends with SHEILD thoroughly screening all her known associates.

The two settled into silence as they observed the participants going through their various warm ups. Some stayed on the beach, limbering up. Darcy had needed to stuff a fold of her cloak into her mouth at that. Naked men really shouldn't do star jumps. Others took to swimming short sprint laps. She almost envied them, the still water seemed perfect for swimming.

Darcy had been a great swimmer throughout her junior high years, but then her breasts had developed (or not so much 'developed' as 'set up shop overnight like a band of gypsies') and she'd lost the nerve. Teenagers were cruel and at the time nothing had scared her more than the thought of stepping in front of her peers in a speedo. Maybe if this wound up early she'd hang around for a swim.

The final few stragglers ditched what remained of their clothes and Darcy might have paid no further attention to the beach, had the water not shifted and thrown a distinct shaft of light across one tall figure. The height and bearing of the man looked familiar.

Oh, how she hoped she was wrong.

She wasn't, of course, because Darcy Lewis was something of a connoisseur of the naked male form. She recognised a naked Loki when she spied one. The wise thing to do would be to back away and make haste back to her safe bed and its protective mountain of pillows. She didn't doubt for a second that Loki would sense her presence. He was creepy like that. The man was a sorcerer and he seemed to be tuned in to her frequency. A frequency that, at that moment, was throwing off a lot of lust.

In a sea of naked bronzed behemoths it would have been easy to overlook Loki. Easy, but unwise. He stood as tall as any man there, but there ended any similarities he might have had with the pack. His body seemed carved of marble, hard and sculpted to reveal a delightful play of light and shadow. It would be easy to attribute his bulk to the thick leathers that he wore, but Darcy could see that he had the firm, lean build of an Olympic swimmer. Shoulders! He turned toward the water as he pushed his hair back from his face. In side profile he was devastating. She wanted to be the grown-up here, she wanted to be the one who allowed the other their privacy. But since that ship had sailed the night before with Loki's open appreciation of her pussy, she settled in and looked her fill.

“Huh, Loki. Who knew?” Jane's words echoed her exact thoughts. "That's... unexpected."

“Not really," she replied, distracted. "I kinda guessed.”

“No insider knowledge?”

“Well, last time I checked I was still able to stand the sight of myself in the mirror, so no. No insider knowledge.”

They fell back into a companionable silence as the remaining men entered the water. Jane seemed torn between ogling Thor and craning her neck to better see the large celestial bodies that rose high above the lake. Darcy felt no such conflict, her eyes greedily following Loki as he dove into the water, then surfaced.

It was a good thing that she was paying attention, or she might have missed the way that he surfaced, shot her a sly wink and then swam off in pursuit of the pack.

Chapter Text

Water lapped at Loki’s thighs as he stood in the shallows and weathered the rush of memory. He’d always loved this. In world of men who dominated with sheer physical strength and size he’d not always been cast in a favourable light.

Magic had never been a discipline favoured by the men of Asgard, and for all his mastery of it, there were few who would view it as more than parlour tricks and deceit. No matter that he’d nigh on brought Midgard to its knees.

Here though, he had found one ‘manly’ pursuit to master. From even a young age he’d moved through the water with an unequalled ease, none could hold their breath as long, or move with the purpose and strength he displayed in water. It had been some years since he’d been enticed to take part in the svimma. But his brief window of freedom and Thor’s insistence had converged to compel him to compete once more.

The hard burn of Darcy’s gaze on his back made him certain that the choice had been fated.

He had sensed Darcy almost the moment she’d stumbled from the cave passage. It was true that he was no hunter, not in the traditional sense, but he had herscent now and marvelled at the wicked, lovely, frustrating turns of her mind. She was to him as any sweet fawn trembling in the forest at dusk: ripe and ready to be captured.

Loki turned, setting himself in profile, moving slowly deeper into the water. If she sought a display of flesh, she could have his. He wondered, momentarily nonplussed, if she preferred the other males on display. The bronzed, swaggering fools who stood flexing for each other in blatant displays of aggression veiled as good-natured sportsmanship.

It mattered not, his was the only body she need concern herself with. He palmed the thick rope of his cock, drawing her eyes. He lacked the bulging musculature of the other men, but that was all that he lacked. It was true that, as a man, he was useless to her (for now), but that did not mean that he would suffer her indifference or disobedience. She would want him as he did her. He’d not rest until she burned with need for him. No faceless phantom lover would fill her mind as she brought herself to sweet release. No strutting cock would court her favour. He sneered as he watched Fandral duck his head beneath the water: he would be the first to go.

It was Thor who finally drew his attention by sweeping one massive arm through the water and showering him with a huge splash. “Come brother! Too long these curs have grown complacent without the Sea Serpent of Asgard to put them in their place!”

Loki looked back to the shore, his eyes seeking out the dark shapes in the tree line. If the Lady had come to look, he meant to give her something worth seeing.

~*~

“You’re going to have to breathe at some stage, Darce.”

Darcy wasn’t so sure. Asphyxiation seemed as good a way to go as any and she had Loki figured for a pretty creative killer. Better to go now on her own terms.

Jane jabbed her in the ribs gently, “We can sneak away if you’d like.”

That would, of course, be the smart option. But then no one had ever accused Darcy Lewis of being smart. “Will you judge me terribly if I say ‘just a bit longer’?”

“Yes. Judging you this very second. No one is forcing you to look at Loki.”

“Right,” Darcy crossed her legs and sat more comfortably on their rock, her eyes tracing Loki’s wake. She told herself that she watched him purely to keep an eye on him. If she knew where he was at all times there’d be no nasty surprises.

It was a very good story, she almost believed herself.

The competition started pretty quickly, men pairing off and proceeding to attempt the task of fucking drowning each other. If there was a point to it beyond that, she couldn’t pick it. Really it just seemed to involve a lot of thrashing, jeering and bare arses. Some squared off in the shallows, preferring to brace themselves against the lake bottom in order to throw their opponents around. Others chose deeper areas; these were clearly the stronger swimmers. Loki immediately set off for deep waters, trailing after what she suspected was Fandral, which kind of sucked as far as Darcy was concerned, because the bulk of his body was below the waterline. He became nothing but the occasional flash of pale shoulders and chest. Fandral circled him with laborious, jerky strokes. Loki simply waited, easily treading water and sculling with his hands. It wasn’t until he came within reach that Loki moved. And God did he move. He dove swift and deep, easily slipping from Fandral’s grip and kicking up a small tsunami up in his face.

Fandral was left spluttering, thrashing around trying to locate Loki. He didn’t find much. Darcy held her breath as she waited for Loki to resurface. Only, it didn’t happen. Instead, there was only Fandral’s unexpected cry of alarm as he was pulled under.

Darcy’s snort earned her a ‘shh’ from Jane. Every opponent Loki faced off against met a similar watery end, each dragged under for moments at a time and only briefly allowed to surface. He gave each a chance to call an end to the game. Some accepted defeat readily (possibly the ones who knew that he was a shark in every sense of the word) some battled on until they turned blue and the decision was made for them.

“Not that I’m taking my eyes off Thor for a second here, but Loki is kind of lethal.” Jane’s eyes tracked him as he swam lazy laps around other competitors.

“That cannot possibly be a surprise to anyone. Do you think it’s magic?”

Jane shook her head at that, “Thor says he has none left. It’s part of his punishment. No magic, confinement in his room, door open and guarded at all times.”

“So essentially, by way of punishment for fucking up New York, Loki got his toys taken away, sent to his room and forced to leave his door open? I wouldn’t call that much of a punishment.”

“What would you call it?”

“Puberty?”

In the lake the men had begun to wind up their individual bouts, they moved to where the water hit mid-chest and waited. This was the final event, the free-for-all. Darcy bit her lip and scanned the men. Loki stood at the edge, his top lip curled as he looked around and found all of the challengers wanting. It was tough to find worthy competition when you swam like a fish.

He didn’t seem short of breath, despite the physical exertion and Darcy almost felt a little giddy. She wasn’t exactly going to start waving ‘Team Loki’ banners, but there was something heady in seeing him so in his element. She pressed her knees together tightly. No way in Hell was this turning her on.

It wasn’t until they kicked off that Darcy truly understood how idiotic the sport was…

“I feel like maybe I need to read up on homoeroticism in Norse culture,” she muttered.

“Ugh,” Jane pulled a face, “I’m trying not to think about it.”

“Yeah, hard to enjoy your Godly boyfriend when you’ve got a man-sandwich pumping in your head.”

“Please stop.”

Darcy sniggered as she focussed on the wholesale confusion unfolding before them. Loki was nowhere to be found among the coughing and laughing, but it didn’t take long for her to notice the men at the edge of the pack slipping beneath the surface one by one.

Oh he was good. It was hard not to dwell on the benefits of a man who could hold his breath for that long, so she didn’t even try.

Fifteen minutes later she was more frustrated and wet than she could ever remember being. They watched the last of the pack dress and move away from the beach, back toward the palace.

The lake was slowly returning to its glass-like state.

“We should be about right to sneak back,” Jane spoke as she slipped from the rock.

“I want to hang around for a swim.”

The look on her face suggested that she was less than impressed with Darcy’s plans.

“I know the way now. I’ll stay ten minutes, tops.”

“I’ll wait.”

Darcy had to snort at that, “Yeah, because you aren’t just itching to go a-viking… loot yourself some booty? Do a little plundering?”

“Ten minutes.”

Tops.” Darcy promised as Jane reluctantly backed away.

She was playing a very dangerous game, she knew that. Loki would find her, was probably waiting for her in her chambers that very moment. It wasn’t a wise time to start wandering around the wilderness unaccompanied, but a cool dip and maybe a lazy swim would do her some good. She unfastened her cloak and let it drop back to the boulder. Her nightgown covered everything, but clung to her breasts and hips and was fashioned from such thin linen that even in the moonlight the features of her body were easy to pick out. It didn’t help that her nipples seemed to be permanently aroused these days, as if punishing her for not letting Loki finish what he’d started that first night.

She was standing at the water's edge, the gown halfway up her thighs when Loki surfaced, slowly rising out of the water as though holding his breath for what she guessed had to be at least five minutes was hardly a chore. She let the gown drop back down.

Tantrums were unbecoming for grown women, Darcy knew that, but it didn’t stop her from wanting to throw herself down onto the muddy beach and scream at the unfairness of it all.

Why?! Why had he chosen her to torment? How did she constantly find herself in these situations? And, oh, for the love of God, why was he so tempting?!

Loki stood still, grinning (because he knew that he had her), with the water playing about his hips. Darcy could make out just the hint of dark hair low between his hips, darker shapes were obscured in the water beneath. All at once she wanted him both deeper in the water and standing free of it. Impossible man. It was the worst sort of temptation.

Light reflected off the water, hitting his chest and face, highlighting the modest lift of his pectorals and the devastating jut of his cheekbones. She hated those cheekbones. Loathed them.

Well, that’s how she felt about them when she didn’t want to lick them.

He held out a hand in a ‘come hither’ manner. “You will come to me, Lady Darcy.” His voice was low, mocking.

“Or what?”

“No ultimatum. You will come because you wish to. You desire me.”

Clearly he was deluded. Darcy started to back away, further up the small beach.

Loki clicked his tongue and smiled that hateful shit eating grin of his. “Oh, Darcy. Misbehaving still? You’ve been a naughty girl.”

Marvellous. Next he’d offer to spank her and if that happened all bets were off. Because if he made that offer one of two things was going to happen: she’d either run screaming all the way to the Bifrost, or she’d merrily throw herself over his knee. Neither was the appropriate response.

“You’re an amazing swimmer.” She deflected.

“I’m amazing at a lot of things.” He kept his hand in the air, long fingers beckoning.

With a haughty sniff, Darcy turned from him and waded into the water. She left the nightgown on, no way was she stripping off now. It wasn’t until she was thigh-deep, struggling with the water-logged fabric that clung wet and transparent to her skin that she realised her mistake. This inadvertent reveal, these teasing flashes of hip, arse and pussy were somehow worse than being fully bared to him.

Suddenly she felt his breath against her ear and whipped around, but she was alone in the lake. Butterflies burst into a frenzy low in her stomach. This was going to end badly. When one went swimming with a shark it was a good idea to keep it in sight at all times… Loki was going to eat her alive and probably not in the good way.

No! She amended. Absolutely not in the good way!

Darcy dove forward into the water and took off with a brisk freestyle stroke. She was no slouch in the swimming department, she could hold her own. Her nightgown made for an annoying drag, but she let her strong limbs pull her through the water. Being a moving target had to be better than being a sitting duck.

It started with just a brush against her foot, gentle and fleeting. A fish, she decided, had to be a fish. Then came a firmer touch against her ankle and she actually prayed that it was just some awful beastly mythical creature that haunted the waterways of Asgard. No such luck, she realised when she felt Loki’s hand circle around her ankle and pull her down. He released her almost immediately, surfacing alongside her.

Darcy smacked the water out of sheer frustration, catching his mouth with a spray of water. His eyes darkened playfully.

“You swim well, Darcy.” God, he was close. “Take the gown off, it does you no favours.”

Like Hell was she going to lose the gown! It was the only thing that stood between her and-

“Take it off or I will. I’ve no desire to watch you drown.”

She opened her mouth to argue. He arched one single, imperial eyebrow and she changed her mind, reaching instead to unlace the cord that bound the front of her gown. Once it was pulled free it was simply a matter of shoving the gown down and kicking free of it. The water was deep enough that all but the top of her breasts was obscured. A small comfort, she decided as she felt the slip of Loki’s thigh between her own.

She didn’t want to be turned on. Didn’t want to be aroused and aching and horny beyond all telling. But she was.

She really really was. She felt like she could heat the entire lake with the heat that her body was throwing off.

His thigh settled more firmly between her own, eyes turning hard and oh so serious as he watched for her reaction. It was easy to shut him out if she closed her own eyes. Their buoyancy made it impossible for her to press down against him as she was desperate to and maybe that was for the best. With a strangled cry Darcy pressed against his chest and slipped away. He followed, lazily reaching out here and there. A thumb against the underside of her breast, a calf against her own, one long finger glancing infuriatingly against the soft lips of her cunt.

It wasn’t until her feet hit the silt bottom of the lake that she realised his sensual assault had backed her into shallow water. Darcy backed up a little further and crossed her arms over her breasts.

“Is it too much to ask for you to leave me alone?”

"The All Father –“

“This can’t possibly fall under the responsibilities of an escort. I’ll lie. I’ll sing your praises as a gentleman. I’ll do anything if you just leave me alone.” It was a hollow sort of pleading. She was begging him to save her from herself. Begging him to let her turn away from a man she had no right lusting after.

“Please, stop.”

Loki’s chest was slowly emerging from the water as he closed the distance between them. “A valiant effort, Darcy.” He sneered, “Say it again, as if you mean it and I might even believe you.”

She didn’t mean it, not even a little and he fully planned on exploiting that. Darcy knew that she was the lowest of women, not just a traitor but a traitor to her race. Nothing but a whore panting after the lowest form of gratification.

At least she was in good company.

It was hard to tell who was more surprised when she suddenly launched herself at him. Violent intent had propelled her forward, but somewhere mid-leap her self-control had deserted her, leaving her instead to crush her breasts against his wet chest, frame his hips with her thighs and spear her hands into his hair. If he was surprised he recovered nicely.

“You are,” he said as his lips ghosted across hers, “Perplexing.”

Darcy wasn’t going to argue. She felt perplexed and perplexing in equal measure. Loki’s hands dropped to cup her arse, hiking her up so that her breasts pressed full and needy against his face. Her legs spread obscenely to accommodate his chest and her pussy opened and brushed against his abdomen as he pulled her close.

Fuck. He kept her thighs wide as she bucked against him, her clit glancing against him once or twice but not nearly enough. He seemed content to bathe her breasts with attention. It was so much, but at the same time it wasn't nearly enough. Loki busied himself littering playful bites over her breasts and nipples, then soothing them with his tongue. A strangled cry of frustration tore from Darcy as she writhed against him, trying to lower herself, trying to work herself into a position where she could feel him hard between her thighs, but Loki's grip on her legs remained firm.

Darcy went a bit wild then, pulling at his hair and raking her nails over his shoulders as she bucked. It was only when she realised that he truly did not intend to give her any freedom that she simply reached down and took him in hand. It was hard not to be surprised when she found his cock thick and lovely, but ultimately unaroused. She chalked it up to the water... maybe he as just slow to get going. That wasn't a problem, Darcy resolved to bring him up to speed with some hands-on assistance...

Only he'd stopped. Gone cold and stiff (well, unfortunately not stiff stiff) in her arms. Loki's forehead dropped to her chest, his face settling between her breasts as he took a few fortifying breaths before disengaging her legs from his hips and setting her back down in the water onto her own feet.

"Did I... is it me?" It seemed like a fair question. In this world Darcy was the outsider, the lowly mortal. Maybe he'd just woken up to himself and realised that he was slumming it? Fuck. Whatever. That'd be fine. It wasn't like this had been a brilliant idea anyway.

"I am," he seemed to be weighing his words as he delivered them. "I am not for you."

Read: too good for you. Still, God or not, it was hardly fair for the jerk to play hot and cold like that. "Wait, so you never wanted to..."

He distanced himself a little, smoothing his dishevelled hair back from his face. "You started this, Lady Darcy. It is my aim to please you and you did, for a time, seem well on your way to being pleased. I was unaware you required active participation." He actually sounded bored.

Cunt. Absolute fucking cunt.

Worse still, she'd actually wanted him hard and inside of her body. Darcy laughed bitterly, biting back words of abuse that would only have been a waste of breath. She felt no modesty as she crossed the beach and snagged her cloak. Let him look, it wasn't like he cared for the sight of her anyway.

"Don't be childish, Darcy."

She fumbled as she walked away trying to simultaneously flip him off and pull on her cloak.

~*~

Loki watched her leave, full of his own impotence and desperate for her to turn back. Never had lies sat so bitterly on his own tongue. It was one thing to be unmanned in the sexual sense, to have her know his plight would unman him in every sense.

Not for the first time in his long life, Loki wondered what it would be like to watch Asgard burn... and Odin along with it.

Chapter Text

Something had to be done about the girl. If he could not satisfy her as she desired, he would find other ways to please her. She would come to accept it. He had handled their tryst in the lake poorly, his mind addled with lust. His pride had suffered driving him to speak unwisely and now he needed to make recompense. Mortal women were… difficult.

Loki lounged on his bed, tunic discarded and leather pants unfastened. He was, he decided, in an untenable position. Never before had he cause to apologise to a woman… and for what? Not ravishing her. He threw his book clear across the room, the words had lost all meaning and he retained nothing. It was hard to read when his mind was still stalking a pale-skinned beauty around a lake.

How easily he could have had her, how lovely she was as she bucked and moaned against his body, no thought of modesty or maidenly virtue. Darcy had been his, a boon lain at his feet, all sweet curves and womanly desire. Even better, unlike the women who had gone before, she desired him in spite of who he was, not because of it. She wanted him against her own good sense. Against all reason she’d slid her hot sex against him and demanded he service her.

He used his depleted magic to recall the book so that he could hurl it again, harder this time.

She’d have been glorious on the muddy shores, knees wide and glowing skin growing dirty as he suckled between her thighs. He’d planned to be gentlemanly, to behave as his station dictated. Then she’d launched herself at him and all thought had fled, leaving only the desire to take her in the mud and defile her. He had not planned that she’d boldly take him in hand and discover his shame. Surely once her anger had subsided, she’d been overcome with laughter. The great Loki unable to rise to the task of pleasuring the single most alluring woman in all nine realms.

“I see this day finds you in good humour,” Frigga noted dryly from his open door as she stooped to collect the book. Her handmaid Eir followed, eyeing him with disdain.

“Mother.” He spoke without any of his customary derision. For all that he had suffered, she was his mother, even if only in name. All he knew, all succour and joy that he’d known had come from her, even he was not dog enough to deny it. “What brings you to me?”

“You are troubled, I can sense it and it is a poor hostess who does not care for the wellbeing of her guests…”

“Ah, gossip then,” Loki looked to the maid, Eir bristled where she stood.

“The Lady Darcy does not rise this day,”

“She’s unwell?” He sat up at that. Mortals were entirely too fragile, it had not been cold last night. But what he knew of the Midgardian constitution was not heartening, they were short-lived, breakable beings, prey to the most innocuous of maladies. It seemed so impossible that Darcy, full of ire and gifted with a waspish tongue, could be so weak. “Mother, you must tend her, she’s weak and far too mortal. If I had my powers I could-“

“Rest easy, Loki, she is merely of ill temper. I cannot help but notice your joint misery. Your father has charged you with her care, has he not?”

“You think me remiss in my duties?”

Frigga shrugged one delicate shoulder and moved into the room, neatening piles of books and parchment as she went. “I think you confused.”

“And you understand the… restrictions placed upon me by the All Father?”

A small smile diluted the awkwardness of his question. “Well enough. But I should not think that a barrier to your aims… you were always such a creative boy.”

He could expire from shame. “She is a simple maid,” Loki spat, lest Frigga entertain romantic notions on his behalf.

Eir practically vibrated with barely contained anger, it seemed that Darcy had a devoted fan in the diminutive maid.

“Just so?” His mother seemed highly amused, “A simple maid and an incarcerated criminal. Did I not love you so completely, I would almost pity her.”

~*~

“You’ll not stay abed all day under my watch,” Eir whipped back the silk drapes over the window, flooding Darcy’s room with late-morning sun.

She groaned and tucked herself into a ball, pulling her covers over her head. The Thing had been slated to fill the day and she, like many of the women attending the gathering, had not been invited to attend. Nine realms and almost all of them as stilted in terms of gender equality as her own. Some of the women had planned to attend a picnic for lunch, but she wasn’t sure if she’d make it to that either.

“You’ll wake, or you’ll not receive your gifts.” She whipped her bedcovers off. “I’ve a daughter who sulks as you do. I care not how much you rail against me, you will rise.”

Darcy sat up and crossed her legs, “Morning to you too, Eir.”

Christ her head ached, she’d spent the night alternatively sulking and sobbing, sleep eluding her until just before dawn. She’d agonised over what had happened at the lake, berating herself for letting things get too far and cursing Loki for not taking them far enough.

Really, his response was no surprise, old school guys like that liked the chase. And he was like… millennia old. He’d probably been horrified that she’d flung herself at him. God it was just tacky and sordid. He might have treated her cheaply that first night, but hadn’t she just rushed to confirm it? When she thought about the things that she’d done, the way that she grabbed him…

She pressed her hands to her heated cheeks, sure that her shame had to be written somewhere on her forehead.

“Oh, and you think you are the first to dread a new day?” Eir tutted as she tossed a small velvet pouch onto the bed, next to Darcy’s knee. “From the prince, he sends his regards.”

Darcy flicked the package from the bed and left it on the floor.

“Ah, a quarrel between you two, then? There are few he does not quarrel with. Perhaps this will improve your mood?” Eir presented a pewter mug full of coffee.

“Oh, Thor! I could kiss that man.”

“Ah, he does not send this libation. It is Loki who also bade me bring this to you.”

She paused and looked down into the mug, instantly suspicious.

“You are a clever girl to be wary of that man, but I assure you I made the brew myself.”

“Nice to know he hasn’t poisoned me, at least.”

“Or enchanted you,” Eir added as she bustled about the room. “Mind,” she added with a knowing glance, “I fear he needs no magic to enchant you. The heart is not wise, is it?”

No it wasn’t. Nor was her traitorous uterus and its battalion of hormones, all of whom cried so loudly for Loki that she could scarcely think straight.

Eir left her to her misery once she’d drawn a bath in the annexed bathroom and issued the order for Darcy to ready herself to face the day. She had to admit, when she finally slipped into the bath still clutching her cup of coffee, that Asgardians really did do some things better. Except sex, because some just didn’t want to do that at all.

Not that she was bitter or anything.

The bathroom was a flashy affair of white and rose marble, the bath more like a small drop pool with stairs leading into it. Gold fixtures finished off the look with a wide window offering a panoramic view of the city. She drained her coffee and dipped below the water. Tuberoses floated on the surface, lending the heated water a heavenly scent.

It was a sexy bath, she decided. Certainly big enough for two. Three if you were adventurous.

One if your name was Darcy Lewis and you weren’t going to be getting any in the foreseeable future.

She washed her hair quickly, then settled back in to listen to her iPod. If she was at home, she’d give herself some much-needed relief. But she’d already learned that the walls had eyes here and even though Loki had made his disinterest clear, she didn’t feel like a humiliating repeat of the night he’d watched her.

Darcy hit shuffle on her iPod, leaned back and propped her feet against the stairs of the bath. The opening chords of the Divinyls’ ‘I Touch Myself’ strummed in her ears. She laughed for maybe three minutes.

Then she cried.

~*~

This time when he went to find her in her chambers, he knocked. He knew she was within, could hear her moving about, knew that she meant to ignore him. It tested him sorely to be patient, knock again and not just enter.

When she did finally open the door, he almost instantly turned around and left. It was cruel that she looked so lovely. Her lush curves were wrapped so enticingly in a high collared sheath of simple emerald silk, her waist cinched by delicately tooled kid leather, the swirling patterns in the leather reminiscent of his own garments. It might have been a demure gown, if not for the tantalising slit from chest to throat. As she moved it allowed for sweet flashes of creamy breast.

Even if his cock did not stir, he could feel a vicious clawing low in his gut.

Still, he had requested the gowns be sent to her, had dictated their style. He had wanted her branded, marked in the colours that he preferred. Only now he wanted her dirt-smudged and in burlap. Anything to make her less desirable in his eyes…

… even if a small insidious voice hissed that no such feat was possible.

His intention had been to silently offer his arm and escort her to dinner, the very soul of respectable companionship. Instead, he snatched her wrist and hauled her up against his body as he began a hideous, humiliating, dribble of words.

“I will explain this once, so mark me well, Darcy.” He blurted the words. “I am not accustomed to having to explain myself; few exhibit your level of wanton ignorance and those that do know better than to question me. But you lack both sense and self-preservation so I will indulge you.”

He took a breath, then proceeded to lie as convincingly as ever he had. “I chose not to partake of what you so generously offered last night because the potency of æsir seed is unparalleled. No contraception is known, beyond magical means and at present I am severely limited in that domain. That and that alone keeps me from taking my pleasure within your body as I desire. Do you understand, Darcy?”

It wasn’t wholly a lie. It was simply that the conception of a god, or a demigod for that matter, took consistent application and intent. Unplanned conception was not typically a problem between the citizens of different realms. His candid words left her blinking up at him.

“So… you still wanted…”

“Yes, Darcy, I wanted.”

He searched her face for some measure of her reaction, but only noted that here eyes were rimmed with red. Had she been crying? Loki had long considered himself immune to the tears of women, but Darcy’s left him feeling distinctly ill at ease. Her pale wrist was marred with the red marks of his grip, he forgot himself when he was with her. Loki dipped his head and planted a chaste kiss against the marks before offering her his arm and escorting her to the evening meal.

~*~

He was still a shit, Darcy decided as he settled her beside him at dinner. Wouldn’t it just figured that the æsir had superjizz? Ugh. She was probably going to have to give Jane a heads-up on that one. Probably she had it handled, but just in case…

It was Darcy that had issues, because beneath the table Loki’s fingertips were brushing over her knee even as he kept his body canted away from hers in a show of boredom. He waved down a server and secured two cups of thick sweet wine.

Because alcohol had always improved Darcy’s judgement.

Darcy needed a level head about her because even Loki’s… what? It was hardly an apology. His justification really didn’t seem to hold water. He’d said he wanted her, cited his only restriction as a matter of body fluids… but he hadn’t been hard and he’d still been cruel. The last thing that she needed was his special brand of fuckery, She had three days left on the clock and she was going to spend them being the perfect guest. Mild, timid, polite… and by no means was she going to spend it grinding on some snake-hipped, silver-tongued, mammary-obsessed God. Fact.

She’d get back to her apartment and spend some quality time holed up with a porn subscription and her go-to toy.

Heavy hands landed on her shoulders, startling her. She looked up to find Fandral smiling down at her.

“Lady Darcy! I have missed you since the hunt. It’s been too long since we’ve seen each other.”

“Not long enough,” she heard Loki mutter. She wasn’t sure if he referred to their general acquaintance or the fact that he’d busted her covertly ogling a vast array of Asgard beefcake (including Fandral) during the svimma, but she had the good grace to blush.

Fandral paid Loki no attention as he continued, “I have saved you a seat across the hall! Jane is there.”

It might have been a cowardly act, but it was a legitimate excuse to slip away from Loki. Why hang around? She knew how time spent with him ended. Sexual frustration was getting incredibly old.

She grabbed her wine and pushed her chair out, Loki’s hand flexed in warning against her knee, but she simply smiled blankly at him. They weren't in a great place, but then she had no business being in any place with the man.

Dinner was a rather fancy affair of whole fish and roasted meats. It was a pity because Darcy was the kind of girl who craved junk food when she was stressed and she doubted she'd have any luck finding any Golden Arches around the place. At the very least she was able to catch up with Jane, who seemed to keep sliding her eyes sideways in concern.

"How was your swim?" Jane asked.

"Wet." Really, she couldn't help herself.

Across the hall Loki was sprawled in his seat, long fingers playing over his drink as he openly watched her. It should have been embarrassing, anybody who cared to look could see the predatory look in his eyes, could sense the anger rolling off him in waves.

What the fuck was her problem? Why was she even wasting brain power on him? There was not not a nice, redeeming thing about him.

If Loki wanted to be pissy, then Darcy was happy to let him be pissy. Darcy plucked at at a hunk of grainy bread, but made more of a show of displacing her food than actually eating it. "How was the Thing today?"

"Bizarre! There was this guy and I swear he caught fire when he got pissed and then-" Jane was on a roll and Dacry couldn't help but be pleased for the distraction. Next to her Fandral was stuck between politely listening to the recount and covertly waiting for the shift of Darcy's shoulders and the subsequent flashes of breast that her dress allowed. She couldn't really begrudge him a few peeks, he was trying to be discrete and she had - after all - briefly ogled his junk the previous evening.

Until Loki had shown up and put him to shame in every imaginable sense.

Still, she'd be smart to at least keep Fandral around, he seemed to be an effective repellent where Loki was concerned and it wasn't like he was hard on the eye. Occasionally his knee would bump hers beneath the table and he'd grace her with a sunny smile. It wasn't in the same league as Loki's confident manhandling, but it was pleasant and it served to remind her that the game she was playing with Loki was both dangerous and stupid. She could do worse than to encourage Fandral, even just enough to keep him interested until she returned home. If Volstagg was to be believed, his success rate wasn't stellar anyway, so he's probably be okay with maybe a kiss and a little light petting.

It was the least she could do if she intended on using him as a human shield to deflect Loki's intense attention.

That's what she told herself a few hours later as she took Fandral's arm, flashed defiant eyes at Loki, and allowed herself to be led from the hall. The entire night had been an ordeal. She'd struggled, and largely failed, to ignore Loki for the duration of the meal. He hadn't even bothered to eat, instead favouring glass after glass of the sweet honeyed wine. His mother, brother and a few brave souls had approached him and attempted to engage in conversation, but his replies had been short and his focus still entirely on her.

Fine. Whatever. It wasn't her problem. Couldn't be her problem.

The walk back to her room was pleasant. Pleasant. Fandral filled the temperate evening air with endless chatter about parquetry, tapestries ('Ah, this one, it depicts my battle against a horde of giant fire toads!') and horseflesh. Presumably all perfectly acceptable sweet talk by Asgardian standards. In what she guessed was something of a risqué move for Fandral, he still had her hand tucked into the crook of his elbow and with his spare hand he was idly petting her knuckles as though she were a particularly coltish individual.

True, her mind was constantly drawing comparisons, but they weren't all bad. Darcy had surmised that, had Loki been the one to escort her back to her chambers, that he'd have already offended her roughly seven times, he'd probably have backed her into an alcove twice and undoubtedly ruined her for all other men. Fandral was absolutely the winning choice here. Which was maybe why she was fairly certain that he was going to get to at least second base when they got to her door.

When he did finally release her arm, he simply cleared his throat, smiled that golden smile of his. Christ, she was ready for bed.

He looked up and down the passage before speaking. “I would take a liberty."

“Er, which one?”

"A kiss, Lady Darcy."

"Oh, we'll, yeah. Shoot. Or, uh, like go for it."

His brow furrowed at her frankly woeful use of language, but he took a sense of assent from her words and that was clearly enough for him as he leaned in and... planted his dry lips to her cheek.

Ugh, clearly this one got Loki's portion of chivalry on top of his own.

Something mean and not at all about Fandral flashed through Darcy's mind as she snagged him by the front of his tunic and hauled him close. She cut of his sound of surprise with her mouth as she set the pace for a wholly pleasant kiss. Initial alarm aside, he recovered nicely and secured his hands about her waist. There wasn't the slightest suggestion that he might want to let his hands wander and Darcy was almost disappointed. Loki would have gone for the arse-grab immediately. He was a stand up guy like that.

Darcy gave it about three seconds before she let her mind wander off on a range of excursions, her eyes and attention scanning the passage. It wasn’t that Fandral was bad at kissing, per se, simply that she found herself wondering if she’d watered her ficus before leaving home, and really, the tapestry on that wall over there must have taken ages to complete. With a tiny sigh of frustration, Darcy did what any woman would do when faced with a mediocre kiss. She grabbed one of Fandral’s hands and planted it securely on her arse, then quietly hiked up her skirt, and planted his other hand on her thigh before letting the fabric fall back around his wrist.

Sometimes guys just needed a little friendly encouragement.

Fandral certainly seemed encouraged, she could feel him growing hard against her stomach, his hips bucking against her in a wholly unconscious move. His hands, for their part, didn't move an inch, they simply clutched and released in a stilted tempo. The hand underneath her skirt really wasn't budging.

Darcy had decided to wind things up when she saw a dark flash against the tapestry directly across the hall.

Loki lounged against the wall, arms crossed over his chest as he observed the scene. He might have seemed at ease, but Darcy noted the slow drip of blood from his hands, where his nails had dug into his palms.

"I've never known a maid with such a single minded dedication to the dispatch of her own virtue."

Darcy disengaged from Fandral with a gentle shove. "Yeah, that train sailed about four years ago," she said with a roll of the eyes.

Loki didn't bother to speak, he was busy watching as Fandral sheepishly retrieved his hand from beneath Darcy's skirt.

"You are not welcome here, Loki." Oh, look, Fandral had found his voice, he turned to Loki, pressing Darcy back against her door and placing his bulk between them.

"Then all is right with the world. If I only went where I was welcomed, I'd be a man without nation."

Darcy contemplated just opening her door, slipping back into her room and leaving them outside to swing their cocks a bit more. She got as far as wrapping her hand around the handle when Loki pinned her with a hard stare that promised no place, no realm was far enough away to keep her safe from what she had coming.

And maybe she was a little bit okay with that.

"Fandral," Darcy was quiet, gentle as she spoke to him, "Thank you for seeing me back here. It's time for you to leave."

His golden features clouded with confusion, "I would not leave you with him. You do not know him as we do, he is not to be trusted."

"I'm sure he's just making sure I go here safe."

"And unmolested." This pointed and somewhat hypocritical comment from Loki.

Fandral's mouth opened then shut. He looked from Darcy to Loki, then back again. He turned with click of the teeth, bowed briefly to Darcy and then marched off.

Loki stared at her, unmoving, for a handful of minutes before speaking. "You push me too far, Darcy."

"Maybe this isn't about you."

He actually laughed at that. "Silly girl. Never tell a God that it's 'not about him'."

It was roughly that moment that Darcy realised how truly fucked she was.

~*~

Every part of him was howling to ruin Darcy, to destroy her. To force his will on hers and make her beg for mercy. She stood with her back to her door, her chin jutting defiantly and her lips swollen from Fandral's kisses.

He wanted to eat those lips from her face. He wanted to raze Asgard to the ground. He wanted to burn alongside her and feel the satisfaction of knowing he'd be the last man to ever hold her.

The violence he felt was the sort that could drive him to conquer worlds. But if that option was closed to him, he'd have to settle for conquering just one woman.

Loki moved with all of the speed and force inherent in the biology of the æsir, remembering just as his hand closed around her throat that she could not withstand his strength. His fingers flexed around her pale neck, just enough to let her know of the power at his disposal, his other hand dropped to cup her cunt through the silk of her dress.

"You let him touch you? Here?" Loki hissed as his body vibrated with rage.

"No, it wasn't like tha-" He pressed her back, the minimal force from him resulting in a slam that rattled the door. Calm, he needed to be calm.

"His hand, his tongue, his..." Loki heaved out a shaky breath, regrouping. "Any part of any man that knows the taste, the sight, the slick of you will meet my blade. In this, Darcy, I make no jest."

"Intense." She muttered as she wriggled against his grip. Even now she defied him!

He opened the door and sent her stumbling into the room with a shove. Pausing to latch and lock the door he spoke to her, "I will not fuck you, Darcy. But I will visit any number of perversions on your sweet flesh this evening. Object now and I might spare you."

"You'd let me opt out?" She asked, trembling hands pressing against her abdomen as she stood at the foot of her bed.

Never, but Midgardians did so love the illusion of choice. He'd underestimated that once before, but he'd learned his lesson now. A benevolent smile and an open handed show of harmlessness was enough to make her hesitate.

It was all the consent he required.

Loki reached for her, spinning her around and propelling her face first onto the bed. Darcy fell among a mountain of pillows (truly, what did she require so many for?) with a sharp cry.

"Have I harmed you?" He asked quickly, cursing himself for using too much force with her fragile form.

"Not physically," she muttered into a cushion, "But I'm gonna need therapy soon, because this should not be hot."

Hot. He liked that. "Don't move."

Her reply was a vaguely positive sound, made into the cushion pressed to her face. Loki paused to shrug off his coat and tunic, he toed off his boots and kicked them to where he'd dropped his clothes. His leather pants remained. There was no need to invite her curiosity. It galled enough that he could not stir his cock to be the man she needed, he did not need her casual touches upon his flaccid flesh.

The bed dipped under his knee, but Darcy didn't move. Her face resolutely pressed down and her shoulders shaking with... what? Lust? Did she lament the loss of Fandral's presence even now?

Loki hauled her skirts up, tossing them above her waist and spreading her thighs with his knees. Fine black lace covered her from his gaze, but the flimsy fabric was no match for his hands as he tore it and threw it away. Darcy tried to close her thighs, but Loki only settled more securely between them.

She was lovely, the sweet glistening pink lips of her cunt opening gently to his heated eyes. A single finger traced over her slick folds and his voice broke as he spoke, "You are wet for another."

The words were like a poison in his mouth. He surged forward, bringing one leather covered knee between her thighs, pressing it against her needy sex. Her hips bucked involuntarily and he reached out to caress the back of her neck.

Oh, his sweet Darcy, how she needed. "I may not be the man you chose, Darcy," he whispered, "But I swear that I can please you better than any other rutting fool in this realm. In any realm."

Her hips continued to buck, her pussy leaving a sheen of lust against the leather of his pants. He wanted to taste her. He fancied that between her legs he'd find a sustenance that even Gods weren't worthy of... and were that the case he would suckle her pink folds until she had rendered every drop of her lust to him.

Leaning in, he allowed her to ride him for just a moment longer. She made a noise that might have been protest, or shame. "No shame here, sweet Darcy, I have abused you terribly, but I will make amends for my sins. I will look after you."

Snagging one of the battalion of cushions, Loki moved back and lifted her hips, setting it beneath her and elevating his objective.

"How serious are you about the... uh... the sperm thing?" she actually lifted her head from the pillow to ask this. She wanted him. He wanted to throw back his head and issue the most brutal of battle cries, he wanted to beat his chest.

He wanted to sequester them away in some far off place, where he was fully in control of his magic and desires. There they'd stay and fuck at length. Perhaps after a decade he'd tire of her... Darcy's hips bucked, her need calling to him. Then again, perhaps he'd need a little bit longer.

"Being with you, in the fullest sense, is impossible." Never had more vile words left his mouth.

She whimpered a little at that, He reached down to drag a single finger down thorough the soaked terrain of her cunt. She wriggled a bit as her thighs widened. Oh, but she was responsive.

He contented himself with idly exploring her slick folds, not penetrating her, or touching upon her clit. When he finally gave her what she wanted, she would be begging. He would teach her that disobedience and other men, were very foolish things to flaunt in front of a God.

"I'm not, you know." He almost missed the whispered confession.

"What?" He asked.

"Wet for another man. I'm not."

Loki sank one long finger into her, relishing her small gasp and the wicked heat of her core. "But you are wet."

Would he have to force her to confess this? He would, he would do anything to hear her admit that he and only he could arouse her so. She mumbled intelligibly into the pillow.

He withdrew and began to teasingly circle her tight passage. "Tell me why."

"You. Because of you."

He rewarded her honesty by passing deliberately over her clit for a few moments. "Was that so hard to confess?"

At his question she actually looked up and over her shoulder at him. "You have no idea." Darcy was flushed, her hair falling messily into her eyes. If he saw resentment there, he chose to ignore it. Instead he gently smacked her lovely full arse. His handprint lingered, a red mark against her skin, for a few moments as he leaned down to press his mouth to her skin to kiss away the welt.

Loki used his shoulder to spread her thighs wider, smiling deeply as her head dropped back down with a dramatic groan. At least in matters of lust, she was as helpless as he was. Her hips canted up toward him and he began the slow and pleasurable task of learning the secrets of her cunt with his mouth. Darcy mewled and gasped so prettily as he took his time discovering her sensitive clit. He rolled the small nub between his lip and tongue again and again, marvelling at how she grew wetter still. An endless procession of wordless sounds and pleas fell from her lips until finally he slowly filled her with two fingers, allowing the the pads of his fingertips to drag over the hot textured walls of her pussy as he penetrated her.

"Loki... fuck."

His chest swelled to hear his name on her lips, but he quickly dismissed the unbidden emotion. This was a simple transaction, a means of keeping her pliable and content for the short time that she'd remain in his caring. It could be a pleasant transaction, but nothing more. If nothing else, his own lack of response should have served to remind him of that. Loki ground his hips into the bed and while the sensation was not unpleasant, it was not even the merest shadow of the pleasure he should have been feeling. With that sobering thought he decided to put an end to their games.

"Will you come for me Darcy?"

"Ugh."

Oh, he did like a woman mindless with pleasure. Loki twisted his fingers, pausing to wickedly rasp his tongue over the tight entrance to her arse.

Darcy's toes clenched as her pussy gripped his fingers tightly, he began to pump them into her as he dropped his mouth to suckle her clit once more, much harder this time. She came wetly against his hand and mouth with a muffled cry, her hands clutching at cushions.

Loki didn't dare move until her breathing returned to its usual, hideously noisy, Midgardian rate. He drew his fingers from her, marvelling at his victory as he watched the silvery liquid threads of her lust briefly stretched between his fingers and her pussy. All too soon the threads snapped and he was left, disconnected and an intruder in her lust. He could not follow her into the languid state where she dwelled.

He leaned back in and stole a final intimacy, pressing a chaste kiss to a very unchaste place, before pulling her skirts back down.

~*~

Darcy rolled onto her back, her eyes searching for Loki. He had wasted no time in stuffing his feet back into his boots and gathering his clothes. She tracked his movement throughout the room, foggily noting the the lack of anything resembling arousal on his part, the firm definition of his chest and the surprising markings stretching from his hips and curling up around his ribcage. The tattoos looked like impala horns. They hadn't been there previously, but then, he hadn't had red eyes before either.

"Loki..."

He paused by a side table on his way out, snagging an apple from a platter and tossing it to her. "Eat, then rest. You didn't eat your dinner."

Darcy wasted no time in tossing it back, "You didn't either."

He paused then and turned his gaze to the apple in his hand, those terrifying red eyes bleeding back into some semblance of their customary colour.

"I will attend you in the morning."

Darcy rolled off the bed and moved toward her bathroom as she spoke, "I wouldn't waste your time."

Chapter Text

Darcy woke by way of trauma to the eye socket. She jackknifed up to a sitting position, striking out in the dark. "That's my fucking eye!"

"Ow, shit, sorry. It's dark!"

"Jane?" Darcy slumped back against her pillows.

"Morning."

"It's still dark."

"I thought we'd hang out."

"Okay, see, the thing is: Have you had a look at Thor lately? For a woman tapping that, you seem to spend a lot of time in my bed."

"Æsir, no stamina." Jane slipped from the bed and returned with a small, glowing glass orb. Asgardian nightlight, Darcy made a mental note to hit Eir up for one.

"I'll be sure to tell the big guy to lift his game."

"God no, please, I take it back. I already need a cushion to sit down."

"Some girls have all the luck..." Darcy muttered as she crossed her legs.

"Some? Thor was pretty damn worried that Fandral had a mind to despoil you last night."

She had to snort at that, "Turns out it's very hard to get a good, uh, despoiling around here."

"So Fandral...?"

"Didn't make it past the door."

In the dim light Darcy watched as Jane's shoulders almost slumped with relief. She supposed it would have been a bit inconvenient for her to get tangled up with Thor's warrior buddy. Which made what had actually happened so much worse. Darcy knew that 'a burden shared was a burden halved', but some things were just too hard to say, even in the near-dark of her room.

"Your underwear is on the floor. Torn. Loki?"

Not relief then, disappointment.

"Yes... but n-not totally. He didn't want me."

Jane nudged half of the pillows away as she wriggled closer to Darcy and threw her arm around her shoulder in an awkward gesture that was surprisingly comforting. Life was pretty messed up when a man who had been billed as 'scum of the universe' couldn't bring himself to sleep with you.

"He could be gay," Jane tried, and failed, for an encouraging tone, "Look at the stuff he wears. And there was the svimma."

"And his weird pseudo-sexual thing with Thor." Darcy grinned into the dark.

"Really, Darcy? You can't help yourself."

"I'm just saying, millennia kicking around the universe? You can't tell me that a guy wouldn't get curious. Give a male enough time and he starts thinking about sticking it in all manner of things... give him a lot of time and things could get weird."

Jane grabbed a pillow and smacked Darcy in the face. "Remind me to tell you about Loki and the horse."

"Horse?"

"This is one of those cases where it's actually weirder than it sounds."

Now there was a miserable thought. Loki could be downright kinky and he still couldn't get hard at the sight of her slutting it up?

"Does Thor get..." Darcy paused to measure her words, "...performance issues?"

The light-emitting orb swung close to Jane's face as she bit her lip in contemplation. "Sometimes I get the feeling that he's waiting for applause afterwards, you mean like that?"

"Uh, no. Not like that." "You mean like..." Jane lowered the orb.

"I'm not saying it is an issue. The æsir seem a little proud and far be it for me to besmirch Loki's already, frankly, pretty shitty name. But is it possible? I mean, they're Gods. It seems unlikely and there's the whole supersperm thing."

"Supersperm?" The orb snapped right back up to Jane's face, casting her features - arched eyebrow and all - in deep shadows.

"Thor didn't tell you?"

"He sort of implied that it wasn't going to be an issue and since the æsir are immune to human diseases..." Jane actually looked a bit sheepish.

"You don't use anything?"

She shrugged.

"So one of us has been lied to..." Darcy slowly reasoned, "And since I'm the one getting sex ed from the God of Mischief..."

Right. Well. At least it marginally less stupid to fall for Loki's shit than that time she'd almost believed Junior Frankston when he'd told her girls couldn't get knocked up the first time. Thank God she'd come to her senses where he was concerned. Unfortunately, getting wise to Loki's ruse was a slightly ruder awakening.

"You know what your problem is?" Darcy was impressed that Jane thought there was only one. "You have this, like, RADAR for inappropriate men. You walk into any room, pinpoint the single worst prospect in that room, and you go for him. All the men you choose practically come with a Surgeon General's Health Warning on their forehead."

Darcy scoffed, but Jane just waggled her orb.

"Remember the bar in Las Cruces? That guy? With the leather and the split tongue-"

"- a vastly underrated and supremely erotic body modification when applied correctly."

"- and piercings in his-"

"- which I told you about in confidence. We're not having girly chats anymore if you're going to keep using this stuff as ammo."

"Multiple piercings." Jane wound up on a pleading note.

Jane had a point and even Darcy couldn't deny the Loki had shot right beyond the bad boy part of the spectrum and into 'Pandora's Box' territory. Darcy dropped her head to Jane's shoulder with a small groan.

"I just worry. You're that kid that goes to the petting zoo and wants to play with the boa constrictor, not the bunnies. It's cute and edgy when you're sixteen, Darcy, but now it just scares me. You're going to get hurt."

The pre-dawn chill settled in around them as a few minutes passed in silence.

"Are cats expensive?" Darcy asked finally, because it was good to have a long term plan and, try as she might, she could think of nothing more sensible than eschewing male company in favour of collecting cats.

"On what I pay you? Everything is expensive."

Oh, good, because the morning hadn't turned out depressing enough (and it was still fucking dark).

"So did you wake me with just general sleep deprivation in mind, or something more nefarious?"

In the orb's light Jane's smile was heartening. "We have two days left here, I thought you'd appreciate a sunrise at the lake?"

"Will there be naked Gods this time?"

"No. But I can promise coffee and some cold Pop-Tarts."

"So much better."

~*~

The fourth time Thor passed by the open door of his chamber, Loki took pity on him. "If you mean to enter, do so. Your constant motion makes me nauseous." Loki sat on a sprawling leather chaise, a book in his lap.

"Ah Loki! What luck! I had hoped to find you here!"

"In the prison, where I have been confined for some years now? Such astounding luck."

Loki knew well enough that Thor merely favoured the appearance of subjugating brain to brawn. The reality was that Thor continued to best him because he had mastered a delicate balance between the two, with the inclusion of that indefinable third element he proudly proclaimed was 'heart'. The hulking oaf was, regrettably, no idiot and he did them both a disservice by play-acting otherwise. "Does your woman not keep you abed?"

Thor's lopsided grin damn near moved Loki to violence. He'd be grinning in much the same manner had he taken Darcy in a fraction of the way he had desired. "She takes the Lady Darcy to watch the sun rise over the lake. I had cautioned her that perhaps the lady did not sleep alone, but the suggestion only made Jane more insistent that she rouse her. I had hoped you had found some cause to... entertain the lady." Thor was ever the romantic fool.

"Entertain her? And how, pray tell, does a man with my spectacular limitations entertain a woman? A deck of cards, perhaps? Shadow puppetry?"

"You can be pleasant when you've a mind to be," Thor reminded him.

"I haven't been moved to pleasantry for millennia."

"I recall." Thor threw himself down onto Loki's bed with a flat expression, "Is it not peculiar, however, that it was Fandral who escorted the lady to her room last night, only to return in a rather uncharacteristically sour mood just moments after you yourself quit the festivities?"

"Mmm, may I suggest you tell the lackwit that, should he desire to retain the use of his hands, he keep them from Lady Darcy's person?"

"You are moved to jealousy on account of the girl?" Thor made a poor effort of keeping the joy from his face.

"Do not presume to know my heart."

"Ah, so you confess that you have one?"

"If I do, it is a small and ugly thing of no consequence."

"Brother," Thor's voice was low, serious, "You do yourself, and I, a great wrong if you think that true."

"Still you call me 'brother'?"

"Until the day my tongue is dust I will call you 'Brother'. Not always with pride, mayhap, but always with love."

"Then you are a-"

"-fool? Yes, you've said." Thor stood and clapped his hands, "I shall leave you now. I wish to make the most of my Lady's remaining days in Asgard, how quickly the days dwindle in number."

Loki traced his finger over the weathered binding of the book in his hand. It was a discomforting thought, one that roused a succession of emotions that he was ill-equipped to voice.

Thor watched him with sharp eyes and a smug grin. "Surely you will rejoice to dispense of your cumbersome duties?"

Try as he might, Loki could not even muster the facsimile of a smile. Thor smiled and left the room, content that he had achieved his aim.

The loathsome dog was too smart by far.

~*~

Darcy wandered through the gardens, idly plucking at flowers, then feeling somewhat guilty (and not wanting to mar the perfect lawns) she'd stuff them into the various pockets of her dress. This one, she'd stolen from Jane's impressive stash. It was a simple black brocade overcoat, fastened with three golden filigree buckles over a rose coloured crushed silk slip. It was perhaps a little warm for a spin in the garden, but the lack of any bust-enchanting nips and tucks made it perfectly suitable. Her bust was enhanced enough as things stood, thankyouverymuch.

Sunrise on Asgard was, as advertised, pretty freakin' amazing. It was easy to forget how new this whole world was for Jane as well, but throwing back coffee and Pop-Tarts as they watched the alien skyline come to life had been soothing. She'd reduced her Asgardian experience down to a few hot and jarring collisions with Loki and there was something special in remembering that there was more to her time there. Jane had quietly spoken about her misgivings, her fear that Thor would want her to take up residence on Asgard, the lack of viability for anything long-term. She'd worried about her work and discoveries that she'd made and how little of it she'd ever be able to really share, even with SHIELD. Darcy had to bite her tongue to stop herself from suggesting that Loki would appreciate Jane's work. Even if she suspected that it was true, what right did she have to speak about him in such a casual manner? They were nothing to each other but a string of increasingly poor life-choices. Instead, Darcy had just listened until Jane had spoken herself around in circles and answered maybe half of her own questions. They'd made tentative plans to spend the next morning doing just the same thing, Jane had a second box of Pop-Tarts stashed in her luggage.

For what remained of the morning, Darcy had been left to her own devices, which was probably for the best. Her head was all over the place... actually, no, that wasn't strictly true. Her head was pretty firmly situated in Loki's pants and that was not, by any stretch of the imagination, a good place for it to be.

Jane's half-hearted theory about Loki being gay didn't really hold water, no man who could navigate her lady-parts with such consummate skill and enthusiasm could be strictly gay. Maybe a bit of a hedge-sitter, but for her purposes he'd felt pretty damn straight to her. Except for the part where he'd responded to her, sexually speaking, with all the excitement of Tony Stark attending a chastity convention.

What was worse was that he was clearly lying. Darcy plucked at a striped white carnation, crushing the small bloom between her fingers. She was the sort of girl who took body fluids pretty seriously, they were a messy shortcut to a whole heap of undesirable situations so she was usually pretty smart about that stuff.

...and here she was, desperate to throw caution to the wind with Loki. As excuses went, it was piss-weak. He hadn't pushed for a blow job or any other sort of variation. Darcy knew she had the sort of rack that gave men ideas... She classed motorboats among the polite requests she'd received over the years (that time Steve asked at Tony's behest probably didn't count either, he had NFI what he was saying). Yet here was Loki who seemed to have this deep aversion to letting her get her hands on his junk. The whole thing was pretty damn unsat, actually. She very much wanted to get her hands on his evil, sizeable, Godly junk. Fact.

As bad decisions went, it was probably up there with that time she decided that she wanted a fringe and that whole jeggings phase that she went through (though, with it lasting just shy of a week, she wasn't sure it really qualified as a 'phase'). At least this wasn't a bad choice she was going to have to live with. In two days she'd be back on her sagging sofa, sucking down two-minute noodles and watching reruns of Antiques Roadshow. Loki would be nothing but a weird-arse memory ranked somewhere alongside that one time she'd smoked too much weed and had a green-out. The guy could grope her boobs, get into her underwear and get on her very last nerve, but he wasn't getting anywhere near her heart.

Darcy reached out and snapped the stiff-stalk of a jonquil, as she pulled away long pale fingers encased hers, wrapping her hand around the broken stem. A shock of cold conducted through her hand, seizing up her muscles and joints. As soon as the sensation started to fade she snapped her hand away, eyes widening as she watched the jonquil reknit and stand proudly among the others as if she'd never touched it.

"Daddy know you're getting your powers back?"

Loki sneered at that, hand darting out to re-snap the flower. "Parlour tricks to please silly maids. Nothing more."

"Well, I'll be sure to let you know if I happen across any silly maids in the garden," Darcy spun on her heel, she didn't get very far. Loki snatched her elbow, dragging her back against his chest.

"I thought we'd walk."

"I thought I was."

"Together." He forcefully tucked her hand into his elbow and tugged her forward. He wore a formal looking ensemble, his broad shoulders filling a leather cloak of such fine leatherwork and ornate detail that Darcy was kind of wondering what she could fence the thing on eBay for.

Darcy shuffled forward, determined to pay him and his goddamn shoulders no further attention. They came to the edge of a small fountain, in the shallow water small brightly colour fish darted about, gold and rose tiles laid out in painstakingly designed geometric patterns beneath them. At the centre of the fountain two small marble boys played, one leaning as if pointing to the fish, his small finger stabbing into the water. At his back another smaller framed and somber looking child clutched at the back of his tunic as if to keep him from falling in to the water.

"Thor and I," Loki seemed content to follow and play the tour guide, "Our mother delights in filling Asgard with small echoes of our childhood." He didn't seem all that keen to actually look at the fountain himself.

With a huff Darcy turned from the touching statues. Clearly all the organic, wholesome food was messing with her hormones. She didn't want to be moved by the thought of a young, stern little Loki. Didn't want to mentally retrace a childhood that had clearly goe awry at some point. What had happened to him? "You were cute kids," she managed to mumble lamely.

"We all start that way. But blood will out." Loki made no efforts to free her arm, instead he used his spare hand to work the black brocade of her sleeve between his pale fingers, his features growing dark. "You didn't want to wear your other dresses?"

"I'm starting to think green doesn't suit me."

"I think it looks well on you."

"I think we can agree to disagree."

With something remarkably like a growl, Loki released her arm and wheeled around to face her. "You seek to punish me for what transpired last night?" he hissed lowly.

Darcy simply crossed her arms and scanned the garden, unsure if it was a blessing or a curse that so few people were around. No one could hear them and to the nearest guests they'd be nothing but dark smudges at the far end of the garden.

"Not at all. I'm just not used to how you guys roll here. I guess I should have been more thankful, huh? Maybe a little prayer?" She leaned toward his ear and dropped her voice, "If you'd have given me a second to catch my breath I'd gladly have gotten on my knees for you."

Her quiet confession, and (God help her) it was a confession, seemed to pain him. He clenched his eyes shut and turned away as if she had struck him.

"You're a tyrant. I get it. It's your terms or not at all. And that's fine, but please excuse me for saying that I'm going to have to bow out before this thing between us gets any more ridiculous."

She didn't get very far before he'd grabbed her, his fingers a hard band around her wrist as he dragged her through the the garden toward a recessed alcove, draped with a deep red bougainvillea.

"I think you'll find that all creatures are bent toward tyranny, my naive Darcy. All we lack is the chance to conquer. Ultimately, we're all just tyrants without a window of opportunity."

It seemed like a prudent moment to engage the brakes on this whole affair, but as Darcy dug her heels into the grass and loosened her joints she was reminded of a fun fact that Jane had once shared - that the average æsir possessed not only the strength of roughly three men, but that their bone and muscle density made them approximately three times heavier. She guessed the figure was probably a little higher for Loki, who didn't seem at all bothered by her limp doll impersonation.

"What are you doing?"

"Creating a window of opportunity."

"And what, exactly, do you plan on conquering?" Darcy queried as he stepped into the alcove and dropped her arse first into a planter box of white peonies.

"You."

Loki dipped at the knees, hands reaching up beneath her skirt to skim up her calves and to her thighs. When he finally had her skirt hitched above her knees, he paused to look behind himself and ensure that they were appropriately concealed within the alcove. Clearly not content with their floral cover, he stepped between her spread knees and flared his cloak around them. At worst, they'd see two young lovers stealing time in the garden.

Which was far nicer than saying 'public acts of indecency', which Darcy was fairly comfortable in predicting. It was, after all, the only common theme in their every interaction to date.

Hell, what did it matter? Darcy knew that her name was already being bandied about as a cautionary tale warning Asgardian girls to keep their knees together.

"Good grief," Loki had paused to look down at her feet. "What are they on your feet?"

"My chucks?"

"They're awful. Truly, I have met cave dwellers with more sartorial elegance than your entire race combined."

Darcy swung her scuffed black sneaker toward his shin. "How anyone ever called you silver-tongued is an absolute mystery to me. Maybe you should do something nice with your mouth?"

"As I did last night?"

She'd have squeezed her knees together, were his hips not planted firmly between them. His fingers wasted no time in pressing gently between her legs. Loki began to trace maddening featherlight paths over the cleft of her pussy, encouraging her to drench the cotton of her underwear. She dropped her forehead to his shoulder, promising herself that just as soon as she'd gathered her wits she'd put a stop to it.

No, really, she would.

The leather of his cloak shifted and creaked softly around them, his breath heating the shell of her ear as he continued to stroke her no more urgently than he might a sleeping cat, or a skittish mare. It was so frustrating that when he finally (finally!) pushed her panties aside and glanced his knuckle against her core, she was sure she'd come just on principle. She didn't - because she'd be damned if she'd make this easy for him - but it was a near miss.

"So wet," he murmured, his thumb circling her clit as his knuckle pressed against her aching cunt. "I could fall to my knees and drink of you as a man stranded in the desert would a well." His words were measured, perfectly enunciated as if he'd rehearsed them. But then, that was how he always spoke.

This time it was Darcy that reached down to still his hand. "I want you."

His smiled against her neck, his teeth grazing and nipping at her skin as he spoke, "And you shall have me." He shook off her hold and plunged one long finger into her.

"Ah! No." She grabbed his wrist again, with less conviction this time, merely caressing it as he continued work her toward orgasm with his brilliant fucking fingers, "In me. All of you."

He ignored her, instead working his fingers more firmly, his palm grinding slickly against her clit. When she finally did come, it was with his other palm pressed hard against her mouth, lest she disturb the calm of the tranquil gardens.

In the small tremors that followed she spoke candidly and with a note that sounded distinctly like begging. "I want you in my mouth," her lips grazed his palm as she spoke. "Or... I've never before... but other, uh, places maybe? I don't care, but I do want you. Please, Loki."

Loki stepped back enough to pull her skirts down. He watched her with hard eyes, making an obscenely elaborate show of licking his fingers clean. "I will come for you tonight."

Yeah, somehow Darcy was calling 'bullshit' on that one. He seemed utterly unmoved by what they'd just done as he stepped back, gave a curt bow and left her alone in the alcove.

He may well show up at her door, but Darcy had a sneaking suspicion that Loki wasn't able to 'come' for anyone.

Chapter Text

“I feel decidedly uncomfortable with this much open flame around so many billowing cloaks,” Darcy griped as she ambled alongside Jane and tried to corral the gently shifting folds of her own cloak.

“But it’s so beautiful!” Jane nudged her as she pointed up the hill toward the procession. Hundreds of revellers had lit up all manner of bright burny things and began the leisurely amble some two miles uphill through Asgard toward the clearing where the night’s festivities – a bonfire – would take place. Jane and Darcy had hung back, falling in with the bulk of the crowd. The procession was led by the high-ranking Æsir and representatives of each realm in attendance. Thor had damn-near held his breath in an attempt to get Jane to accompany him, but Jane (bless her) had hung back with Darcy. It wasn’t that Darcy would have been incapable of walking by herself, it was just that going anywhere unaccompanied seemed like an invite for Loki to slither up to her and, oh maybe, throw her into a bush and ravish her?

Or not ravish her, as was his habit. It was a talented guy who could so utterly debauch a woman without ever taking his pants off.

Around them people chattered pleasantly as they watched and followed the golden snake of lanterns that led up into the dusky skyline. Most had utilitarian lanterns, some braver souls had uncovered tallow candles. Darcy had actually lucked out with hers (or Loki’d out, as she was starting to suspect). She’d opened her chamber door to find an ornate lantern waiting. It wasn’t like any of the other lanterns she’d spotted so far, she’d seen some lovely ones, but none even came close to hers. A finely-fashioned gold filigree cage held hand-blown emerald glass, skilfully hammered golden leaves curled up the side of the green glass and opened into a mount for the clear glass wind shield. The whole deal was suspended by a delicate gold chain that fastened to a circular grip, much like a thick bangle, studded with green stones.

For the preservation of her mental health, Darcy was going with ‘not real emeralds’ and absolutely ‘not real gold’.

“Where the Hell did you get that one?” Jane made a grab for it and she skipped aside. “I want that. God, it smells amazing!”

Mine.” Darcy almost pet it to prove her point… but, well, hot and flamey. But it did smell amazing. like some exotic mixture of citrus, oud and clove. The flame flickered with green sparks and tendrils of white smoke rose up to wind around her arm and up through her hair. It was probably a bad thing that he was clearly leaving such lovely little trinkets for her. Sexually aggressive Loki was so much easier to handle than thoughtful Loki.

At least she’d smell good. Which would be advantageous because Darcy had plans. Wicked God-seducing, getting-to-the-centre-of-Loki’s-dilemma type plans. Because no matter what her issues with him were, there was simply no way she’d continue to take his rejections on the chin. They were going to get down and nasty or he was going to pony up one incredible explanation for his reticence.

So a grand seduction was on the cards. Sort of. It was a work in progress. When he showed, if he showed, later that evening Darcy had every intention of launching a full-on assault with her feminine wiles. Or at least her boobs. Because, yeah, she had two of ‘em and had been reliably informed that they weren’t too shabby.

Actually, they were looking somewhat spectacular in the dress that she’d selected for the bonfire. She’d picked it from Loki’s offerings purely on the basis of what she liked to call ‘pulling power’. On a scale of ‘one’ to ‘drop your boxers, boys’, Darcy rated her dress somewhere near ‘spontaneous underwear combustion’. The dark green velvet gown latched to her every curve and held on with either sheer determination or witchcraft (and given the source of the garment, she was leaning toward witchcraft). It clung all the way down her thighs, only flaring out into a fishtail train at her knees. It did make walking a bit of a challenge, but sometimes a girl had to give up life’s little practicalities in favour of being smokin’ hot. It seemed incorrect to call the plunging neckline of the dress any such thing, as it was so far removed from her neck that a bra was impossible and if she shifted too much her navel could well make an appearance. Her cloak swept back over one shoulder, secured by a gold brooch that looked suspiciously like the curved horns of Loki’s own preferred headdress. Loki struck her as the sort of guy who was firmly entrenched in caveman mentality, seeing his colours indecently clinging to her arse would have to do something to his libido. She hoped. Darcy sighed shakily as she stroked the chain of her lantern.

“Don’t tell me he gave it to you!” Jane might as well have just turned, pointed and screeched ‘witch!’.

Darcy contemplated denying it, or playing coy. As a matter of fact, she couldn’t put her hand on a bible and swear that he had left the lamp for her, it was just that she was pretty much 97 per cent sure that he had. “Jeez, are you trying to set me on fire?” Darcy deflected neatly as she waved Jane’s paper lantern away.

A few minutes later they arrived at the wide clearing, it stood higher than much of Asgard, though not the higher points of the palace. Darcy surveyed the amazing view of the glittering buildings that seemed to bind the darkening land and the many-hued night sky together. Around the, as yet, unlit bonfire nests of large luxe cushions were positioned at various intervals. To one side a low dais sat with a long table, carved thrones and chairs. To another several smaller pit fires did their magic as spit roasts were prepared in front of a long buffet. Asgardian buffets, Darcy was quickly learning, were the bomb. Too bad she’d probably bust a seam on her dress if she so much as looked sideways at a bread roll.

Lucky, she reminded herself as she carefully extinguished and set her lantern down next to a pile of cushions, everyone knew that calories didn’t count when they were in liquid form. “Drinks?” She nudged Jane to get her attention.

Jane was, technically, not able to sit on the royal dais but that didn’t stop her craning her neck looking for Thor. Thor stood by, the dutiful son, as Odin officially kicked off the whole shindig. It was Frigga who stepped forward and, with a graceful dip of the knees, touched her flaming torch to the kindling at the base of the bonfire. Realising that Thor had maybe another thirty minutes of schmoozing ahead of him, Jane turned to her and confirmed with a nod, “Drinks.”

The girls approached a trestle table, draped with white cloth and boasting several large urns of mead – because, sweet baby Jesus, there were actually different types of mead. Darcy was fast becoming something of a mead savant (because sober was not how she planned on getting through her visit to Asgard) and knew what she liked. She poured them both a nice Rhodomel mead, a wicked concoction of alcohol, honey and rose petal distillation. “Cin cin,” she said as she touched the lip of her cup to Jane’s, then promptly downed it before replenishing her drink. Jane’s attention, however, was fixed on a shadowy figure on the other side of the growing bonfire.

“Your boyfriend’s being creepy again,” she narrowed her eyes and sipped at her mead.

Darcy bit down on her reflexive ‘not my boyfriend’ answer in favour of making a slightly more obvious statement, “Have you ever known him to not be creepy?”

Through the flames she could just make out his dark, broad shouldered figure as he slowly stalked them. Darcy took a few experimental steps to the left, noting how he moved in perfect counterpart to her, keeping the leaping flames between them. The bonfire kept them more than twenty feet apart, the heat intensifying, pushing her further back still. It would be smart to leave him be. If he wanted to play games he could damn well piss off and play with himself.

She was lying to herself, of course. With her grand seduction in motion, she really didn’t think her fragile ego could cope if he did just walk away. Darcy raised her cup to the shady figure, threw back her entire drink, then turned away. He’d come to her. She was counting on it.

“Well, that was…” Jane let the sentiment hang in the air between them as she handed over another drink and they moved toward large grouping of cushions where Darcy had left her lantern.

“Yup.”

“…I mean I knew he was intense but that’s kind of like a creepy-“

“You are allowed to sat ‘hot’, you know.”

“I’d feel dirty.”

Darcy rolled her eyes then stepped on the hem of Jane’s dress, sending her sailing into the pile of cushions. Getting down onto her own seat was a little less easy. There was no graceful way to get down without a) testing the limits of a dress that already defied the laws of physics or b) treating all present to a redux of the first night’s boob exposure. In the end she just bent her knees and let gravity do the rest, no mean feat when she had a drink to keep upright.

Around them, people moseyed from one group to another, falling into easy exchanges. Darcy was content to just lounge and watch the bonfire. The wild cherry wood burned sweetly, crackling and dancing before her eyes. She caught sight of her extinguished lamp, the gold and glass flashing in the light of the bonfire. She drew her finger gently over the side of the lamp… soon she’d be gone. Back to reality as she knew it.

Which was totally a good thing… and she needed to remember that.

~*~

Loki was used to going unnoticed, used to hanging back in the shadows, which was why this evening was proving so disquieting to him. First, she’d seen him through the flames, finding him as though linked to him by some intangible thread.

Not long after that he’d felt the powerful gaze of the All Father fall across his shoulders. Odin and Thor had sat, heads bent close, as Thor spoke passionately, hand flying in his direction. Odin spared Loki a dark glance, but his face showed nothing.

It didn’t matter; he’d leave them to their machinations. No punishment they could devise could emulate the torture of the prison created by his desire for Darcy. They could do their worst and he would relish the distraction. Lust was now his constant companion, an indestructible phantom that danced relentlessly in front of his eyes. It was, perhaps, a punishment more fiendish than any he could invent.

Even with his body restored, with Darcy out of his reach he feared that no release would compare to just the mere thought of her. No woman, no act, could compare to the pleasure of just watching her. It was foolish to admit, even to himself, just how much he ached for her.

He wanted her to the exclusion of all else. Revenge, validation, power… all these things would wait. The day he slipped his bonds he would pursue her without pause, without thought. He would tear the realms apart to secure her. Having Darcy had, imprudent though it was, surpassed his every animal impulse and desire. If he looked into his own core, that place where magic and want collided, he now found only her hitched sighs, her soft skin, her gently curling lip and – of all things – that vague swift snorting noise she made to roughly every second word he spoke.

It would be easy to forget how maddening she could be, with her arranged as she was at that moment. Loki watched her from the edge of the clearing, cradling mead he had no taste for. Darcy sat alone in her nest of cushions, her companions having all migrated toward the buffet to stock up their plates. Loki frowned at that, again she meant to starve herself? Did she not enjoy Asgardian fare?

She shifted on her cushion, rolling onto one hip, an ankle and calf flashing pale and perfect in the dim light. The dress, he decided, was both his favourite and his most hated. On her side, her breasts rounded nicely, begging for his dedicated attentions. Her hair was free and curling about her shoulders.

Had he possession of his magic, he’d blind every man in the clearing.

A tender smile curled at her lips as she reached out, not for the first time, and caressed the lantern.

He was glad that it seemed to please her so. In his youth, the lantern had been his, a prized possession and (as Darcy would eventually learn) an undying flame. The oil within would never deplete and the flame could not be extinguished without the intent of the owner. For much of his youth he and Thor had made the pilgrimage to the bonfires shoulder to shoulder, but the time had come where he’d learned that it was his lot, his place, to fall back behind his brother. After that discovery, he’d found no joy in the lantern.

Loki swept his hand in a low arc, calling on his pathetic reservoir of magic, bringing the small lantern to life. Darcy’s hand jerked back, her head snapping up in alarm, searching… but she could not see him nor could she hide the dawning smile of delight as she returned her attention to the flame.

Loki could not account for the sudden ache in his chest. He absently rubbed one palm over the stilted throb in his ribcage as he continued to watch her.

~*~

Darcy had never really needed to seduce a man before. Her material was pretty much exhausted by whipping off her top and saying something along the lines of 'It's your lucky day, dude.'

Hey, if the methodology worked there was no point in messing with it.

Unfortunately, she suspected Loki required a little more finesse. Apparently he wasn't the sort of guy to give it up without a compelling reason. Fine.

He’d better have the decency to show up.

Darcy sat on her bed, knees tucked up to her chin as she watched the door. She left the wall sconces lit, let her lantern hanging securely at the head of the bed. She’d been prepared to wait some time for him to show up, listened to the sounds of the palace as the revellers returned in waves from the bonfire.

As it turned out, he didn’t make her wait long.

The heavy door of her chamber opened and shut so quickly that she had to grin. She knew Loki was stealthy, but it was neat to watch him in action. He bordered on bashful as he turned and found her watching him.

“The palace has no need to know my comings and goings.”

“The palace suspects, Loki, knowing pales in comparison.”

“Clever Darcy, how quickly you learn,” his smile seemed genuine.

With a feigned yawn, Darcy slid from her perch and stretched slowly in front of him.

“The dress looks well on you.”

Boobs. Gets ‘em every time. She went with what she hoped was an alluring smile.

“It is a handsome colour on you,” he added.

She gave a vague nod as she turned and moved toward the bathroom. Eir, bless her, had filled the mammoth tub with hot water. Bless Asgard and their never-cooling tubs. Eir had explained something about underground thermal wells, Darcy was running with ‘witchcraft’. “I still smell of smoke. I think I’ll take a bath.”

“You’d like my absence?”

“I’d prefer your audience.”

Loki did an appalling job of covering the strangled noise that slipped from his throat. She supposed it was something of a novelty that she was volunteering to strip for him. Mostly he just watched without permission, or ordered her out of her clothes himself.

It took every ounce of her willpower (willpower that she didn’t know she possessed) not to look back to check that he was following. She’d read in Cosmo once that half the battle when seducing a man was believing that you could. With that in mind, she sauntered to the bathroom with a resolute set to her jaw.

Candles burned in an arc around the bath (how the entire realm hadn’t been razed to the ground long before now, she’d never know). At the door, she paused to release the cloak with a casual flick of the wrist, leaving it to pool in her wake. She tossed the golden brooch over her shoulder… but never heard it hit the ground.

The wide neckline of the gown allowed her to casually slip it over her shoulders and down her arms, the dress falling clear away to her waist. She might have lost a couple sexy points for the weird hop and wiggle she had to execute to get the dress down over her hips and arse, but she regained them by virtue of the fact that she’d gone commando.

It was entirely possible that she could have coaxed the dress the rest of the way to the floor by just pressing her knees together, but it was far more satisfying to feel the rapidly expelled breath against her spine as she widened her gait marginally and bent over to push the dress clear.

“I see you’ve decided to condemn me to death by torture then?” Loki’s voice was far closer than she’d expected. She turned to him, trying not to look as nervous as she felt. He’d lost his cloak and boots, now he wore only his trousers and an untucked tunic. His eyes were damn near black as he looked down at her.

My Darcy,” he murmured as he swept a thumb over one peaked nipple.

“Not yours,” she muttered as she slipped her foot backwards, searching out the first step into the bath.

“Not yet.”

Shuffling backwards on wet marble probably wasn’t the smartest thing she’d ever done, but with Loki so close she was confident in saying that she’d never been in any real danger. Really, when she thought about it, losing her balance on the edge of the bath had been an (inadvertent) masterstroke, which had ended with them both on the second step, his arms tight around her.

“Whoo, close call…” Darcy took another step down into the bath. Loki followed. “You’re a little overdressed for a bath.”

That eyebrow rose slowly, his face hard. Hey, if he didn’t want to be ‘tortured’ he could simply come clean with what was going on. But since no explanations were forthcoming, Darcy was simply going to keep prodding. She snatched at the hem of his shirt, pushing it up until she could reach no further and he was left to pull it the rest of the way off.

“Happy now?” he asked as he pressed his chest against hers and took them all the way down into the bath. Darcy had to admit, he had an awesome chest. Flat dark nippless pretty much begged for her mouth and she could really commiserate with Loki in regards to his ‘thing’ for her breasts. Man had stellar nips.

“I’d be happier if the pants went.”

“They stay.”

“You’re no fun.”

“That’s not what you said when last I visited you in these chambers.”

With a small noise of disgust Darcy pushed away from him. Of course he’d play dirty. It was hardly gentlemanly to remind her of how she’d behaved the previous night… all girly and needy and moany.

She was playing a dangerous game with him and, worse, she was ridiculously outmatched. The man was a God of Deceit and she thought that she could just… what? Trick him into wanting her the way she wanted him? What a pretty little fiction.

Darcy crossed her arms, bringing her hands up to cup her breasts in a belated (and ineffective) display of modesty. The water was just on the right side of too-hot, and her skin was flushed and pink. His was not, he was as pale and perfect as ever, the water that was rib-high on her only lapped at the carved planes of his abdomen. His pants hung low, weighed down in the water and the Impala horn tattoos were still there, curving from his hips up and around his ribcage.

Yeah. She wanted to put her mouth on him real bad. Wasn’t that just her luck? She’d set out to seduce a man, only to find herself more caught up on him than she would have thought possible.

At that moment, drowning in the bath held a special sort of appeal. With a frustrated huff, Darcy turned, giving Loki her back as she dropped into the water, resting her chin on the marble edge. The water shifted around her, but it would have been too much to hope that he’d just leave her to her misery.

No, she knew that they were both beyond that now. Good sense just wasn’t a consideration in their weird little dance. They were heading nowhere good, but for some reason neither of them seemed capable of engaging the brakes.

“Close your eyes, Darcy.”

She gently smacked her forehead against the marble. His chuckle was low and close as she watched him reach past her for an empty jug, he filled it with bathwater then slowly poured it over her head, raking the fingers of his spare hand through her hair as he went.

Why did he have to be tender? The sex she could handle. Their rough little game of ‘cat and mouse’ she could understand. But this confusing, caring, tenderness left her feeling raw and jagged.

Loki’s thumbs bit tenderly into the nape of her neck, his fingers spearing out over her shoulders before slipping down and around her ribcage. He drew her through the water, bringing her back flush against his slick chest as he crossed his arms around her and ambitiously cradled her breasts in his hands. His steam-damp hair clung to her cheek as he dropped his face into her neck and spoke, “There is no bounty in all the realms that pleases me as much as these.”

Whoo! Point to Team Boobs!

Things may not have gone exactly to plan but as Loki manoeuvred them back into the water, his hands gently flexing, Darcy figured she might as well forge ahead. She could hardly jump up and down screaming ‘J’accuse!’ without any (ahem) hard evidence. Beneath the water she ran her hands up his legs, lightly drawing them over the flex of his powerful thighs. Behind her back, she let her fingertips ghost over his crotch, learning and exploring the shape of him. With a curse hissed in a language that she couldn’t understand, Loki snatched one hand away from her and spent a few moments roughly jerking open the fastenings of his trousers.

He jammed her hand into his pants, jolting her shoulder as he yanked her arm further back and cruelly tweaked her nipple. “You are relentless,” he hissed, as his fingers worked over hers pressing her fingers hard against his cock.

He was large, thick and heavy, that wasn’t news, and he was utterly unexcited by the prospect of being in the bath with a slippery, butt-naked Darcy.

She could scream in frustration. Darcy tried to withdraw her hand, but he simply held her in place, rocking himself against her fingers. In the moments that followed he gripped her too tightly, bruising her breast. His teeth sank into her neck hard enough to break the skin. She felt something hot run down her neck and hoped it was just water, but knew that it would be blood.

“It’s me,” she stated blandly as she wrapped her hand around him and tried to work his shaft within the confines of his trousers.

Somehow, she kind of always figured it was. Darcy Lewis was ‘peasant fare’, good enough for drunken frat boys and investment bankers embarking on early mid-life crises, but this was the big leagues and she was woefully out of her depth. He was a fucking God and she was a woman who sometimes considered pyjamas to be perfectly acceptable daywear.

This time when she struggled for release, he let her go. The bath was big, but not exactly an Olympic swimming pool, when she turned back to face him he was still far too close. Her shame and embarrassment had started to fuel a rather healthy dose of righteous indignation as she looked him up and down, hands held wide in the universal gesture of ‘what gives?’.

“I assure you, Lady Darcy, the problem is entirely my own.” She hated, hated, the clipped, diplomatic tone he used with her. She was not an ally, nor an enemy to be ‘talked around’ to his way of seeing things. No way in Hell would she let him talk his way out of this without a damn good explanation.

“Then what the fuck is it?!” She smacked her hand down into the water, sending a volley of splashes toward him. “Is it a control thing? Some sort of ‘look how badly I can make you want me while remaining utterly detached? Or… or…” A horrid look of comprehension washed over her face. “Is this a Thor thing? Is this a ‘Thor’s nailing a Midgardian, so can I’? Jesus Christ… it is, isn’t it?”

She pressed the palm of her hand to her forehead in dismay, unaware of the tempting shift of her breasts as she did so. “It is. You don’t even want me! Oh, sweetheart, you had better rethink that whole ‘immortal’ tag because I will figure out a way to end you!”

“Ah, so we will be conveniently ignoring all the crass overtures I have made toward your person then? Every touch, every word, every cry that I steal from your sweet lips… all a ruse? Wonderful. It appears I shall have to redouble my efforts.” He crossed his arms as his jaw ticked with irritation.

“I wouldn’t bother,” Darcy sniffed as she dropped her chest below the waterline and pressed her back to the marble. “I’d hate to see you expend your energy, when this clearly isn’t heading anywhere.”

His eyes left her for the first time since he’d slipped into her room, finding something positively fascinating in the middle of one blank wall. “It is not my will that I withhold myself, Darcy.”

She rolled her eyes, but said nothing. Yeah, he totes wanted to bang her. Which was why he’d done everything in his power to not have any junk-on-junk action. Liar.

“Don’t doubt me, Darcy.” He still wouldn’t look at her, “It is physical limitation alone that prevents me from becoming a permanent and tireless fixture between your thighs.”

Permanent and tireless?!

“Phys-“

I am impotent,” his voice cut through the bathroom, hitting the walls sharp with anger, and Darcy just about lost her shit because at that moment he turned blue and suddenly shots of frost darted out from his body, setting the surface of the water.

She didn’t wait around for explanations, she looked down at her chest as ice bit into her skin and jumped up from the bath, the thin layer shattering and turning to slush on the water’s surface as she scrambled up and ran for a thin linen towel.

Out in the bedroom, she wasted no time in diving for her bag and yanking out a thick hoodie and a pair of flannelette pyjama pants. It might have been churlish to throw over her Asgardian finery for her own ratty clothes, but there was something fortifying in zipping up her hoodie and jamming her hands into her pockets. Five minutes later, Loki stepped from the bathroom, a linen wrap slung low on his hips. At least he was back to a more normal, er, skin tone. Darcy surreptitiously pressed her hoodie up against her neck, catching a small trickle of blood where he had bitten her.

“I made a costly mistake, that first night in the Hall, I let the universe see how I desire you and there is nothing that the universe loves more than thwarting me,” he crossed toward her as he spoke.

Darcy sat on the edge of her bed, her knees tucked up to her chin. The shock had worn off, all that remained was a numb sort of chill, a resignation to the fact that things were just too fucking weird for this to ever work. “I don’t understand. Excuse me for pointing this out, but you’re a god.”

“Which makes my penance doubly humiliating,” Loki knelt on the floor, his palms pressed to the bed either side of her hips as he watched her face closely.

“This is a punishment?” She tried not to sound as horrified as she felt. Surely there were laws about interfering with the physical function of prisoners? Did the Geneva Convention cover this? Somehow, she doubted that Asgard had been a signatory. “That’s fucked.”

His lips twisted at that, “Appropriate choice of words.”

“Or not.”

Loki pressed his forehead to her knees and drew his hands over her bare feet. “You’re cold. I have made you cold.”

The moment seemed all too intimate, her fingers ached to run through his hair, to trace the long line of his neck and explore his slumped shoulders.

She kept them in her pockets. “I’m fine. That’s a neat party trick.”

“I scared you.”

Funny that that would be a concern for him. He’d tried to enslave her entire world, but this didn’t sit well with him? His hands rubbed her feet, the friction warming her. Of course this was Loki that she was dealing with and it was only a matter of time before his hands were moving up her calves. “I can still please you, Darcy. I am your dedicated servant.”

Mmm, yeah, a prince at her feet. It did wonders for the ego. Too bad she was suffering from a fit conscience. This was going somewhere she wasn’t wholly comfortable with. It was hard to cast herself as the ‘user’ in this scenario, but with no pay-off for Loki that’s exactly what she’d be. She’d come to Asgard for a good time, not a long one. In two days she’d leave and it wouldn’t do to have any ties binding them. If she reduced their entanglement to a series of sexual cheques and balances, she was already well in the red. Somehow she doubted that Loki would be a good man to be in debt to.

Darcy feigned a shiver and he pulled his hands away, frowning.

“I think,” she muttered as she moved out of his reach, “That I might just sleep tonight.”

~*~

It pained Thor to just think of the burden that Loki shouldered, he cupped his own groin sadly. It would not do to attack a man in such a fundamental way.

“One night, Father,” he knelt before the throne, arm propped on one knees as he plead Loki’s case, “Allow him that.”

“Still you harp on about this? Is the girl amenable?”

“Lady Jane swears it.”

Odin pursed his lips in contemplation, “He does not deserve it.”

“Perhaps not,” Thor conceded, “But it is not prudent to leave a man in fetters without hope of reprieve. He will grow mad and bitter.”

“You would have me allow him this as…”

“Incentive. Show him a prize worth striving for."

“I suppose the girl is lovely, but he reviles all things he considers beneath him..."

"Not Lady Darcy," Thor rushed to assure him. "He haunts her. He is constantly underfoot. Loki is besotted."

"He has told you this?"

Thor could only shrug, "Some days, Father, I am gifted with a fleeting wisdom. It would do you proud."

"You will outdo this old dog yet, Thor.”

“Perhaps, but not today.”

With a gruff laugh Odin waved his hand, restoring Loki’s manhood.

~*~

“It’s so warm,” Jane marvelled as she waded into the lake. The surface reflected the orange-golden hues of the rising sun.

“Eir said something about it being fed by thermal springs,” said Darcy from a few metres away where she paddled on her back. She wore a soaked Bikini Kill t-shirt and panties, while Jane was swimming in longer pyjama pants and a shirt that proclaimed ‘Astrophysicists do it in the dark’.

The swim had been Darcy’s idea, but Jane had gotten on board with it after minimal coaxing. It was their last full day in Asgard, well, Darcy’s anyway. Jane had plans to stay on for a few more days (and Darcy wasn’t complaining, because Jane-free days at work were awesome for catching up on naps, Candy Crush Saga and other vital life skills).

Jane dove into the lake, surfacing just shy of Darcy. “You should stay,” she decided with a nod as she pushed her wet hair back, “We can do this in the mornings… you can torture Loki a bit more before lunch, we can explore in the afternoons. It’ll be fun.”

“I’d hate to eat into your special alone time with Thor.”

“Ugh, we can’t do that all day, you know.”

Darcy fixed her with a sceptical stare.

“Well, he can,” Jane amended, “But I can’t. It’s exhausting.”

“Keep flaunting your athletic sex life in front of me and I’ll drown you.” Darcy sent a lazy splash in her direction as she rolled onto her front and began to paddle around in slow circles.

“I’m just saying, I wouldn’t mind if you wanted to hang around. I'd love it."

“Yeah, actually, I think it’s time I got out of dodge. I need some quality time snuggled up on my sofa with a butt load of Phish Food.”

Jane frowned at that, “I thought you and Loki were…”

“This isn’t high school, Jane, you pointed that out. The man’s a killer and a whole raft of other things I can’t even begin to get my head around.”

“You mean… Jotun?”

Oh, wonderful, even Jane seemed to be clued in on this. “If Jotun are blue, short tempered and really fucking cold.”

“Uh, yeah, that’d be it. Jotunheim, land of the frost giants. Loki was found there as a child. It’s not really spoken about, not publicly. Thor gets a bit weird about it, he feels like he’s betraying Loki by admitting they aren’t really brothers.”

“Frost giants. Right. Most girls date drugged out bass players when they want a bad boy, I skip right into the major league and head straight for frost giants.”

“Everyone needs a talent, Darce.”

On that miserable note they resumed their easy silence as they swam in small circles until the sun had gained a real hold in the sky and it was time to head back.

“Uh, shit, little help, Darcy?” Jane was rooted to the spot, neck deep in the lake.

“Mmm?” Darcy moved over to where she stood.

“I’m a little… stuck on something.”

“Something?”

“Driftwood, maybe? Only, you know, not drifting? The leg of my pants is stuck.”

“Can’t shake it loose?” Darcy slipped her foot down Jane’s leg, feeling for the snag with her toes. A hank of her pants was wedged into something, and it didn’t seem inclined to budge. “Stop moving, you’re just kicking up dirt and making it murky down there. Can you just slip out of them?”

Jane bit her lip and looked away sheepishly.

“You know,” Darcy said as she rolled her eyes, “You used to be my role model. But now you gallivant around without panties and I just don’t know what to think anymore…”

“Can you grab it?”

“Gimme a sec,” said Darcy just before she ducked down into the water. She opened her eyes, but saw only a whole lot of dense brown nothingness. Swimming deeper, she reach out until she found the offending snag. It took a few seconds to find the right angle to free the pants and once she was done Jane slipped aside.

Darcy propelled herself forward and up to the surface with a few powerful kicks… or at least that had been the idea. The reality was a whole lot suckier. Darcy swam headfirst into a submerged rock, taking the brunt of it at the temple, her breath leaving her in a hard, sickening push.

She might have had the final impression of crushing water and endless dark, but it’s hard to remember when you’re unconscious.

Chapter Text

Being cast from a lover's bed was enough to put any man into an ill temper.

Being cast from Darcy's bed the previous night was enough to have Loki plotting the demise of every soul he encountered. So when Loki spied Thor's golden tresses as he peeked around the door to his chamber, he had to subdue the biting cold that whipped up his spine and urged him to strike out.

"Brother!" Thor's voice carried a wealth of affability as he stepped into the room, "How do you fare this fine day?"

Loki didn't speak, merely turning his attention more firmly to his book, an updated history of Midgard. He didn't want to explore his motives in selecting this particular book too closely. Why should he not learn more about Midgard? He owned his fair share of its history.

Thor continued to stand in the doorway, as if holding up the very frame with his shoulders. "So you feel... well?"

"As well as ever," Loki didn't look up.

"Do you... feel amorous?"

"At the sight of you?" Loki shut the book and fixed Thor with an unimpressed stare, "Take no offence if I say no."

If it was possible, Thor's grin only widened. "I mean to ask if you feel... moved to mischief?"

"No more than is my custom. This is wearying, if you've something to say, speak plainly or be gone."

Thor threw up his hands, as if Loki had spoiled some great game. "You are restored brother! Your..." His vague wave indicated the lower half of Loki's body.

This, at least, seemed worthy of his attention. "How so?"

"By virtue of our Father's great lenience."

"Forgive me if I am skeptical."

"Try!"

"Now?" Loki scoffed. "With your attention on me?"

Even as the words left his mouth, the image of Darcy spread and flushed on her bed flashed into his mind. His cock twitched and his breath left him in a triumphant gasp.

"Well?"

Something tender, thankful, and long-suppressed surfaced as Loki crossed the room to clap Thor on the shoulder. "I am... I go to find..."

"You are anxious?" Thor spoke softly, his voice held no accusation.

Loki tried a nonchalant shrug, but it came off perhaps even more contrived than it was. "She is a mere chit. A Midga-"

"And you a 'monster', but she likes you well enough and you love her for it."

A muscle ticked in his jaw. It was a fine time to Thor to hone his skills of perception. "And she throws me from her chamber and defies me at every turn."

"Do not confuse obedience for love, Loki. One may exist where the other is lacking."

In all truthfulness, Loki knew he had secured neither her obedience nor her love and it was the latter that vexed him beyond all reason.

"If I may," Thor gripped his shoulder, keeping him in the doorway, "I would suggest you try not to fall upon her like a ravening beast?"

"In this, brother, I will thank you to keep your own counsel. My ravening beast is perhaps the only part of me that the Lady would embrace." His Darcy was a woman of strong appetites.

Loki realised too late that he had called Thor 'brother' without pause or mockery. His mouth was part-way to forming a retraction when Thor tensed and held a hand high to silence him. "Lady Jane is distressed."

Loki could hear no such thing.

"At the lake. She went with Dar-"

Thor had no time to finish his sentence before Loki called upon his Jotun reserves, unleashing the wild, untamed thing within him to send him to the water's edge.

~*~

"If you're fucking around, Darcy, so help me God!" Jane's voice was hoarse from screaming for Darcy. Something was horribly wrong. She'd been freed from her snag, but when Darcy had failed to surface a few moments later Jane had decided that she was the victim of a practical joke.

A minute beyond that she wasn't to sure, but Jane was unwilling to consider the alternative, even as she'd begun calling loudly for Darcy.

Now she alternated between diving in, blindly reaching out in the murky depths hoping desperately to grab a handful of whatever God-awful concert tee Darcy had been wearing that morning and screaming for her at the top of her lungs.

The situation was fast becoming untenable - going for help would leave Darcy alone, maybe still underwater, for far too long. Staying would mean that Jane was the only one who might locate and save Darcy. Both choices were sickening and as Jane dove again, grasping nothing but the silt bottom of the lake, she knew it was time to make the call to run back for help.

The choice, however, was taken from her when she surfaced to see a shock of brilliant blue and red eyes. Loki was formidable in his Jotun form and Jane couldn't help but wonder why on earth he'd let Darcy see him like this.

"Darcy?" The question escaped as a hiss and the water surrounding them dropped a few degrees.

"She went under a few minutes ago, I-I can't find her!"

It's enough of a response to send Loki diving into the lake. It had been far too long and Jane knew that Darcy could have drifted off to anywhere. Loki is an incredible swimmer and he would be able to cover more water... but they were running out of time. As bleak thoughts threatened, Jane felt the first fine darts against the bare skin of her arms. Small ice shards were forming as the water temperature dropped rapidly and Jane knew she couldn't withstand it any longer. Her joints were stiff and her body was screaming as she backed out of the lake. Loki still hadn't surfaced by the time Thor came running into the cleaning, trailed by a handful of men. She pointed to the space where both Darcy and Loki had gone beneath surface.

"L-Loki is in there, but it's so cold. He's... I don't... I don't know what he's doing."

"I fear," Thor spoke softly as he pulled Jane into his side, "That he does not know either."

~*~

It was not relief that he felt as his hand gripped a skein of hair and hauled Darcy close.

It was hatred, a distilled white hot loathing focused on the weakness of her race and his own ill fate to so desire something destined for such a fleeting existence. This was an impotence more gripping and unbearable than any laughable failing of the flesh... he would be destined to watch Darcy die, if not that very day, then in every dream and blink and moment he was parted from her he would remain bitterly cognisant of her mortality.

Loki breeched the surface of the lake with Darcy stiff and unresponsive in his arms. Blood welled at her temple, diluted by water and spreading at an alarming rate. She was blue with cold, her lips a comparable shade to his own and he wondered if he hadn't compounded her injuries by using those icy tendrils to spread and find her. He couldn't speak, wasn't sure what to say. Darcy was too still, too silent, too cold. He called on a calm that he didn't truly feel and suppressed his Jotun nature, the warmth returning to his skin and contrasting Darcy's own frigid body. It was Thor that he handed her to when he reached the water's edge. Thor, who brimmed with life, warmth and vitality and though it pained him to see Darcy cradled against that expansive chest, held fast in the thick crimson folds of Thor's cloak, he held his tongue.

"Down," Jane ordered, pointing to the muddy banks, "She's not breathing."

Everything in him railed at the sight of her, bare-legged and so still, a small and starkly pale contrast against the red of Thor's cloak. Jane fell upon her, violently compressing her chest and forcing air into her lungs. Eir would come, she was a healer of unparalleled skill, but nothing in her arsenal would cater to such a fragile creature. The æsir did not simply cease breathing and while he understood the practicality of what Jane was doing, forcing life onto a body that had ceased to function, he was horrified to watch the forceful jolts that Jane was tirelessly slamming against Darcy's fragile form.

Life, he realised, was a slippery and ephemeral thing and Loki imagined that he saw the spectre of death not hovering over Darcy, but out of the corner of his eye - the constant and mocking companion of the immortal.

"Make her breathe!" Loki forced a wealth of authority into his voice, for all the good it did him. It was difficult to comprehend, she had air, why did she not simply breathe?! He suppressed the memories of the Midgard he'd once walked, the Norsemen were quick to war and young to die. They had been a hearty people, but no less mortal for their will and viciousness.

Minutes passed with only Jane's laboured breathing and the sickening dull noise of compressions. Loki was on his knees, edging forward and, yes, possibly crawling through the mud horrified with the scene before him. It was Jane's gasp that signalled the change, suddenly Darcy's prone body surged up, spine arching as she spewed up muddy water, arms flailing clumsily in the air. To Jane's credit, she seemed to finally gain command of the situation, rolling Darcy onto her side, hitching her top knee up and rubbing firm, sweeping arcs between her shoulder blades.

Darcy's hair fell across her face in ratty damp hanks, bloody water dripped into her eyes as she tried to make sense of what had happened. "The fuck..."

"It's fine, you're fine."

"S'blood?"

Jane leaned over her, gently pushing her hair out of the way as she spoke softly. Loki reached out and snagged a cloak, his own shirt was too wet to be of use. He didn't wish to crowd Darcy but he truly couldn't recall a sweeter sound than her short gasps and slurred curses as she weakly shoved at his hands. The wound at her temple had slowed to a sluggish trickle of blood, still far more than he was entirely comfortable with, and he did his best to clean the wound.

"All is well then." Loki's tone invited no argument as he flicked Thor's cloak up to conceal Darcy's legs.

"No, there's..." Jane frowned down at Darcy, "There's still secondary drowning to worry about, she probably ingested a lot of water and then there's the concussion and... We need to got back to Earth. To a hospital."

Loki let a hard snort convey how he felt about that suggestion as he gathered Darcy in his arms, she was conscious but she didn't fight him, instead securing her arms about his shoulders and pulling a face against his wet tunic.

~*~

Frigga remembered how Loki had been as a boy, serious and wise beyond his years. He had possessed such reserves of control and held himself with the gravity of a king. He had been a man before he'd ever had the chance to be a child.

It was no surprise to find him making up for lost time, sodden and angry, back against the wall as he sat on the floor of Darcy's chamber as far removed from her as the dimensions of the room would allow. Jane and Eir fussed over Darcy, attempting to strip and dry her while remaining aware of Loki's presence. Frigga noted how his shoulders tensed each time one of the women blocked Darcy from his sight. For her part, Darcy seemed more intent on proving that she required no assistance. A less convincing argument had never been made.The girl could scarcely coordinate her fingers to divest herself of her wet clothing and when she wasn't failing dismally at sitting upright, she was making a very pointed show of not looking toward Loki.

"You need to leave," Jane snapped as she held up a sheet to block Darcy's bare pale body from him. Frigga suspected that her protection of Darcy's modesty was unnecessary, but then it was unseemly for Loki to be in the chamber of a woman he had not officially claimed, even as a mistress.

Muddy water pooled around Loki and dripped from the tangled ends of his hair. He looked to her to be nothing but a surly, half-drowned, man child. Women did have a way of turning fine men into irrational, churlish imps.

"Loki, I will need your assistance," Frigga spoke in clipped tones as she settled a large ornate enamel box at the foot of the bed. He was at her side in an instant and Frigga delicately wrinkled her nose, "You would tend your woman thusly?" Her voice dropped low, for his hearing only. "Look to yourself, I will tend her until you return."

He cast a nervous glance toward Darcy, then nodded before sloshing from the room.

"Oh, m'lady, I thought he'd never leave. He's a menace as surely he ever was." Eir vibrated with contained energy and the need to tend to Darcy. As always, her dear friend would not be censored.

"He will return in haste," Frigga opened the box before her. It had been many centuries since Eir or she had cause to tend to a mortal, intervention was not always favoured, but some cases had been so unjust that she had been moved to answer prayers and act. "Not even breakfast, Lady Darcy, and you have the palace abuzz with your misfortune."

The poor girl groaned and moved to cover her face with her hands, an alarming lack of coordination saw her poke herself in the nostril instead. "Ah," Frigga sat beside Darcy with a kind smile and pressed a cool hand to her forehead, "Rest, child. We shall restore you, you need only close your eyes and sleep."

"Shit!" The abrasive curse tumbled from Jane's lips as she watched Darcy slump against her pillows.

"Hush, Jane," Eir admonished her, "We have healed thusly before."

"But she's concussed!"

"And Eir has been revered on each realm, at one time or another, as the goddess of healing. Lady Darcy is in good hands."

Duly chastised, Jane stood back and clasped her hands in front of her.

"Go to Thor, Jane, he frets for you and your friend. Lady Darcy will sleep for the remainder of the day, but she will be as lively as e'er on the morrow."

Jane resisted and left only once Darcy was secured in her blankets and Eir gripped her elbow and hustled her from the chamber.

Alone with Darcy, Frigga crossed to the window, sweeping back the curtains and letting the sun fall across the bed to warm her pale limbs. Though the lake was typically warm, Darcy's flesh held a chill that Jane had attributed to Loki's 'Jotun-foo'. Her skin was growing pink and warm as the exposure had been limited, but this new power of Loki's was worrying.

From the enamel box, Frigga withdrew a blue agate bowl, no larger than two cupped hands. The Heill bowl would draw the water from her lungs, it need only rest undisturbed on her chest for a short while. It was fortunate, thought Frigga as she settled the bowl carefully between Darcy's breasts, that the girl was so generously endowed.

By the time Loki had returned (with no coat and not a buckle nor button fastened, such had been his haste) she had cleaned Darcy's wound and sat idly plaiting the hair at her temple, in part to keep it from her face, but also to busy her hands.

"She is asleep?" His voice was thick with worry.

"She is well, but rest will enable her recovery."

He nodded, eyes searching her body for anything they might have missed, "How would you have me assist?"

She pointed to the pink swelling around the wound, "This will pain her greatly if it is not cooled."

"Shall I send for ice?" He backed toward the door.

"Is there need? Are you not Jotun? Do you think that I do not observe that you have grown into your Jotun inheritance?"

He scoffed bitterly at that, "Inheritance? I have no mastery of this! I cannot command myse-"

"It is how you found her in the lake, how you saved her. Surely for that alone, your legacy is worth regarding with pride..."

"Indeed?" He angrily swept his hand through his damp hair, "This night just gone I sent her running from the sight of me. It disgusts her."

"She is Midgardian, all magic confuses her." Where was the boy who had sat at her knee and so diligently applied himself to the mastery of magic? True, this was not the magic he had always known, but it was the power that he had been born to. "Will you not try, for her?"

Loki shifted uncomfortably on his feet.

"Of course," Frigga stood, careful not to upset the small pool of murky water forming in the Heill bowl, "I could always send for ice and then your presence would not be required here. After all, it would be unseemly for you to linger if you do not mean to assist..."

God of Mischief? Bah. He was her son and his powers of persuasion had not been learned from the All Father.

~*~

Loki watched Darcy breathe, felt the radiant warmth of her skin and he basked in her. He sat beside her on the bed and, perhaps for the first time, he was reluctant to touch her. His hand hovered a hair's breadth from her mottled, swelling temple and he braced himself to touch her but before he could she turned her head as if seeking out his touch. Fingers ghosted against her heated skin, stroking gently, as he mentally recalled the patterns and glyphs of his Jotun form. Slowly, slowly, he felt the skin of his palm shift and cool. When Darcy did not shy away from his wintry caress, he began to stroke her brow more steadily.

He stayed beside her throughout the day, his hand constantly upon her (though not always cold), he spoke softly to his mother, Eir, Jane and Thor as they visited in turn. Glared as Fandral attended to deliver flowers 'from the Warriors Three'. Twice he emptied the Heill bowl and though her colour improved, her chest still rattled with each deep breath. The sun had dipped low, signalling dusk, when she finally woke in a fit of coughs.

He shifted away from her, braced his bare feet on the floor. If he was unwelcome, he'd be able to claim that he'd only been passing through.

"Loki?" Darcy's voice was hoarse and even though the sun had long passed its zenith, she shielded her eyes. There was no accusation in her tone, she'd simply woken and sought him out. Excellent, it was more than he'd hoped for.

"I'm here, pet."

Darcy pulled a face at the endearment and struggled to sit up, he snagged the empty Heill bowl before it slipped into her lap. The sheet dipped at her breasts and Loki quickly recalled his renewed virility but suppressed the stirring in his gut. He would be little better than a dog if he could not control himself in her presence. Though no water remained on her lungs, she was not fully restored and he'd do well to keep her wellbeing foremost in his mind. He hauled the sheet up. "Are you quite done making a nuisance of yourself?"

"I wouldn't want to make a promise I can't keep." Darcy cast her eyes around to bed, searching.

"What do you need?" Loki was on his feet, ready (for the first time in recent memory) to serve.

"Robe?"

"You are to stay abed until the morning," he leaned in to secure the bedding tighter.

Darcy kicked at the sheets, the risk of exposing herself to him was high and he truly didn't know which would be more unbearable - seeing her bared to him, or keeping her under the covers. "Darcy."

"Look, I need to..." she inclined her head toward the necessary.

"Ah."

He moved to her dressing room and withdrew a warm cloak, beside the bed he held it open and waited for her to rise from the bed. He was comfortable in telling himself that he watched her slip naked from the bed purely for her safety. It would not do to have her fall from her sickbed, after all.

Darcy, perhaps, was not convinced of his motives. "Been here long?" She asked as she crossed the room slowly.

He gave a casual shrug, "A passing visit."

"Without your shoes?"

The bathroom door shut before he could reply. And, really, what could he say?

He had not formally declared an interest in Darcy, but surely she saw where his affections lay? A woman did not play and jest as she did without being sure of a man's tender regard. She had to see that his continued... interest signalled something (even if he was reluctant to identify what that was). He knew that men were free with their physical affection on Midgard (women too) and the æsir were not famed for their own restraint, but he attended her with a frequency and attentiveness that even she could not easily dismiss.

No, it was decided. She'd stay on. He'd petition Odin to have her installed as his mistress, as was a right of his station. It would take all of his powers of persuasion, but her continued presence in Asgard would be worth any number of promises to the All Father.

"What happened at the lake?" Darcy returned to the bed, curling up in her nest of blankets with the cloak securely shielding her body from his gaze.

Loki moved to the bed and passed a single fingertip over the bump at her temple, it was not as swollen as it might have been. "You must have hit a rock, Jane raised the alarm as you drifted away."

"She saved and resuscitated me?"

He was unreasonably stung that she didn't recall him finding her in the murky depths of the lake. True, she had been unconscious at the time, but somehow he felt that she'd know it was him, somehow understand that he had saved her, would always save her.

But then, that wasn't entirely true. Jane had been the one to breathe life back into her, Jane had brought her back from death.

He busied himself at a side table, plucking fruit and cheese from a platter that had been left for them and arranging them on a small gilt plate.

"Eat," he prompted as he passed the plate to her.

She nibbled on a piece of hard cheese and swallowed before she spoke, "You don't have to, y'know, play nursemaid. You've probably got better things to do."

He truly didn't.

"It's such a shitty way to spend my last night on Asgrad."

"You can't possibly expect to travel in your condition."

"I'll be fine and it's not like the Bifrost is taxing. Once you've done the public commute in New York, everything else is a snap."

"We may discuss this in the morning." While you move into my chambers.

"Uh, yeah. We'll talk about it while I pack my bags."

And that seemed to settle the matter for Darcy. Panic welled behind his ribs and it wasn't until she'd finished picking at her meal (why would she not just eat a complete meal?!) and fallen back into a deep sleep that he felt calm enough to return to her side.

Loki watched her through the night, drawing the blankets back and removing her cloak when she overheated and started to fret in her sleep. Deep shame washed over him when he grew hard at the sight of her, even when she was once more secured in her blankets the relentless throbbing of his cock would not subside. He pressed the palm of his hand hard against his prick, but the discomfort did nothing to calm him. In the end he simply pressed himself to Darcy's side, daring so much as to pull her into his arms. She slept on and Loki endured the longest night of his many, many years.

~*~

Darcy woke feeling pretty damn good for a woman who had, by all accounts, been just a little bit dead the previous day. Jane had probably been a bit dramatic when she'd made that assessment, but Loki had been remarkably skittish and disappointingly hands-off with her, so clearly something had happened. He'd made a big show of treating her like some kind of invalid and hadn't even gone in for a bit of their typical PG-thirteen groping.

Hey, if it wasn't penetrative, she wasn't upping the rating. And, really, they hadn't technically even kissed. He'd playfully brushed his mouth across hers after the svimma, but that hardly counted. Loki's mouth was more acquainted with her lady parts than her lips (and wasn't that just a perfect example of her rapid moral decline?).

She'd told Jane the previous morning that it was time for her to 'get out of dodge' and as she felt the weight of Loki's arm pressing her down into the mattress, she knew it was the right call to make. They hadn't even had sex and he was acting in a way that hinted at something more serious. And if there was an ex boyfriend that Darcy didn't need, it was Loki. Exes were evil enough, she couldn't imagine how much worse things would be if one actually started out, y'know, legitimately deranged and bent on world domination.

It wasn't that she didn't feel for him. She did. She'd watched him move through his own home, utterly isolated and rudderless. Was it any wonder that he'd have singled her out for attention when (through his own piggish behaviour) he'd been tasked with her care? And then, worse, Odin had played his little trump-card, effectively linking Darcy and Loki's sexual function together in such a way that of course he was going to act a little bug-fuck crazy around her.

The man was a God and it would be a costly mistake to think that he really did feel anything for her. It was wrong to want him to. Deceitful even, because of the two of them she was the one who could see how the lonely, frustrated man was being played.

Her own desire to 'make the beast with two backs' aside, it was actually a pity that nothing had ever happened. Darcy knew that she was the sexual equivalent of a drunken fast food binge: a great idea at the time, but in the morning all parties involved just woke up sticky, vaguely nauseous and vowing to never do it again. Sex with her would have been a cure-all for Loki's emotional crisis. She could have simply given him what he (fine, both of them) wanted and then watched him run a mile when he realised just how plain and unexciting she was.

It was the brilliant shining Janes of this world that snagged the Gods. The Darcys got guys named 'Buck' who sold flat screens for a living and spent their days off nurturing their borderline alcoholism. Or, worse, guys named Atticus who wore skinny leg jeans, glasses they didn't actually need and pretended to read Sartre.

Darcy dropped a stealthy kiss onto Loki's shoulder, at least he'd provided her with ample fuel to help her fantasise her way through her every future mediocre sexual encounter. Hell, maybe she'd just avoid guys named Buck and Atticus and invest in some cats.

She'd give herself another five minutes, she decided, as she wriggled further into the be-

Why, hello there...

Darcy shifted her hip again and, sure enough, brushed up against Loki's sizeable hard-on. She edged closer, even asleep Loki ground himself up against her hip. Pondering his new protuberance, Darcy let her hand slip from the sheets and down to explore the impressive bulge in his pants. Was this an unconscious loophole? Did the restrictions only count when he was awake? Did it matter? She could hardly have her way with him and expect him to stay asleep for the whole shebang (she had some pride).

Loki's hand slid over hers as he slowly rolled his hips.

Not asleep, then.

Which left her with the unfortunate reality of being rather bedraggled (God, her hair had dried naturally!) and blessed with none too stellar morning breath, the scourge of morning-nookie in anybody's book. Loki, the smug bastard, simply looked as appealing as he always did. Rat.

"Erm," Darcy cupped him through the soft leather of his trousers, "So this is new."

"Forgive me," his eyes clenched shut as he whispered into her hair, "Just a moment longer, then I shall tend myself."

Tend himself?!

Darcy stroked him more firmly, "I think I'd like that honour..."

"You are ill."

"Ill, not dead." And she wasn't really ill at all. Asgard had some wicked healers on the payroll. Darcy's mind gave a start... "How long have you been able to-"

"Since yesterday morning."

"And it's only just coming up now?" She stood by her double entendre, too annoyed to even giggle. She did not need him to go being all noble and self-sacrificing for her. There wasn't a point in the night that had just passed that she'd not have welcomed his advances. But no, Loki had spent her last night on Asgard on top of the sheets being a good guy.

And here she was with only a short morning to catch up for lost time...

"You should have woken me, we could have celebrated our mutual revivals..." Darcy slid down in the bed, dragging the blankets with her as she went. Loki didn't seem to object when she slid his linen tunic halfway up his chest and brushed her mouth along the waist of his pants. Of course, he also didn't seem to be breathing. Fully awake and more than a little determined to be sent off with (ahem) a bang, Darcy unfastened the front of his trousers and tugged them down his hips.

Loki's hands on hers stopped her. "Darcy, you aren't well enough to-"

"I really must insist." Another tug had the pants around his thighs, his cock bouncing free.

She knew that he was impressive, but seeing him hard, curving up toward his flat stomach had Darcy wanting to weep with joy. She gripped him around the base as she ventured a quick dart of the tongue over a bead of precum gathering at the thick head of his cock. Loki's hips jerked as his hand fisted in her hair.

"You would reduce me to a rutting boy?"

Oh, so it was okay to make her lose all dignity? She snorted, then set her hands to work, cupping his balls and stroking his shaft as she took him as far into her mouth as she reasonably could. Darcy kicked the blankets away, their weight against her skin suddenly unbearable. She didn't feel even a hint of her typical self-consciousness. Really, she hadn't felt any since the first moment Loki had hauled her across that table and dropped her into his lap. He had a way of looking at her that left her feeling invulnerable, as though she could do no wrong in his eyes. Of course, doing no wrong in Loki's eyes wasn't the same as doing the right thing. She was actually pretty damn certain that pleasing Loki was a sure-fire way to piss off the rest of the population. Too bad that at that precise moment, pleasing Loki was her most fervent desire.

Loki had recovered from his initial shock and was alternating between shyly fucking Darcy's mouth and making plays for her breasts, which were pressed hard against his thigh. Not once did he try to push her head down, instead his hand alternatively tightened and loosened in her hair, a sure indication of when to ease off, or go harder.

There was something heady in the way that she was working him, the non-sensible, guttural groans arousing her to an unbearable point. She pressed her knees together, so wet that even her inner thighs were slick with excitement.

"Darcy," Loki spoke apologetically, petting her hair, "I-I cannot endure..."

Darcy released him and drew away, she tried for a slow and sexy slide up his body, but was largely hampered when her breasts seemed to drag and linger against his every contour. He truly didn't seem to mind.

His tunic was quickly dispatched of and finally she came to rest, straddling his abdomen, hot flesh spread obscenely against his skin. Loki came up onto his elbows, his face turned up to her. There was that look again, like it was Christmas morning and his customary lump of coal had been switched for some flash new toy. For a second it looked like he meant to arch up and kiss her, but she simply speared her fingers into his hair and redirected his mouth to one heavy, aching breast. It could never be said that Loki didn't take direction well, he attacked his new objective with vigour, his tongue darting out to rasp across her nipple. The sensation sent darts of heat directly to her pussy as he gripped her arse and dragged her down. She steadied herself with a hand against the mattress as he guided her dripping cunt down to slide against the ridged underside of his cock. Every inch of him (and Jesus there were quite a few) dragged over her clit creating a wet friction that was only just tolerable.

Loki's tongue drew slowly along the underside of one breast as he spoke, "Will you have me, Darcy Lewis?" There was something so weighty in the way he phrased the question, something so needy. With their junk already in such close proximity she figured it was kind of a redundant question. Darcy Lewis was a sure thing. Unless, of course, he wasn't asking about the sex.

She didn't dwell on it.

Instead, she came up on her knees, their hands bumping as they both guided the broad, seeping head of his cock to exactly where she needed him. She'd barely taken him into her when her breath fled in a hiss. He was so big, it had been too long and it felt so fucking good. Long pale hands came to rest on her hips and if she'd been in any fit state she might have applauded his restraint, he had to want to drive up into her. It was what she wanted, but she just needed a minute to adjust and to-

She sank down onto him fully, throwing her head back and letting go of a hoarse cry that she hoped to God wasn't going to bring half of the palace running.

Fuck, she was full of him. All of him, only him.

His fingers bit into her hips, keeping her still as the cords and sinews of his neck bunched and released from exertion. His eyes clenched shut and Darcy was overwhelmed with the need to brush the hair back from his face - by far the most intimate and dangerous thing she could possibly do. She satisfied herself with dropping her face into his neck and biting at that heated place below his jaw. He seemed to like it, his hips bucked and she could have sworn she heard him mutter a quick 'Fuck' as he began to move beneath her.

There was an artless friction to their fucking, all passion and no finesse, but no less perfect for it. It was raw and earnest and devastating.

Dawn spilled over their heated bodies, picking up accents of pale sweat-slicked skin and turning what was only ever meant to be a quick 'goodbye' fuck into something beautiful. Darcy could have wept at the unfairness of it all. Later she'd tell herself that it had been nothing more than a favourable convergence of hormones, but at that moment she marvelled at how her heart could break when she wasn't even in love.

She felt the tight tremors in her belly, the precursors to one Hell of an orgasm, and reared up to ride Loki all the way down. The filthy wet sounds of their bodies only added to the impression that this was the sort of sex that ruined women for the rest of their lives. Glacial blue eyes zeroed in on her face, their focus complete, even as his breath came in great heaves interspersed with throaty groans and inelegant grunts. He watched her then, as much as he could with his own climax looming, she wasn't sure what he hoped to see. She was only certain that whatever it was, he couldn't be allowed to see it. If information was power, then Darcy would greedily hoard what little she had.

"C-come." Her body tensed at the stuttered command, her pussy gripping him, milking him. He moved then, his eyes so clearly telegraphing his intent to kiss her that she had ample time to drop her face into his shoulder and sob out her own orgasm.

It was cruel, she knew that, but it would have been crueler to take advantage of his need.

He came then too, his hands stilling her hips as he withdrew and drove steadily up into her several times. She felt the heat of his cum, felt the hot rush between her thighs as she pressed her hand against the hammering in his chest.

She'd sort of figured that he'd be amazing, she just hadn't understood that they'd be amazing.

Neither one of them seemed to be in a rush to move. If her weight on his chest irritated him, he didn't say so. His cock slowly softened and he shifted reaching between them to gingerly withdraw with a hiss. He wasn't the only one left feeling raw and sensitive. The wet noise of their bodies disengaging served as an embarrassing reminder that she'd let him come in her. For all her wild ways, she'd never actually had unprotected sex before, never had to deal with knowing that the man beside her had left something of himself inside of her.

Darcy's face heated as she rolled off Loki and returned to her side of the bed. He followed, stubbled cheek pressing against the underside of her breast as he rolled onto his side and draped one arm across her. He shifted briefly as he finally got around to shedding his pants, they'd been around his knees the whole time. A hot trickle from her pussy had her slamming her knees and eyes shut in embarrassment, but she didn't get too far. Loki's hand was already there, two long fingers catching his seed, spreading it, pressing back up into her as though he couldn't stand the thought of his work being undone, that any part of him would be rejected from her body. She might have been squeamish about it, but one look at the quiet determination on his face as he tenderly pressed and caressed her hypersensitive pussy and clit stilled her tongue.

"Stay," he murmured as he circled his fingers.

"Today?"

"As my mistress. As long as I please. Do not return to Midgard. Do not go where I cannot follow."

She pressed her knees together more firmly, stilling his lazy strokes.

"You're still a prisoner."

"A royal prisoner," he corrected as he wriggled his fingers. "I am entitled."

And never had a sentence better encapsulated a person's entire world view. Darcy snatched his wrist and withdrew his hand from between her legs. "It can't be that easy." She looked down her chest at him, blue eyes peeking over her nipple. He scented a challenge.

"I will make it so, Darcy."

Her skeptical look had him scrambling for his pants. He paused to press a kiss against her ribs.

"I will petition the All Father this very moment. Stay abed, love. I will return."

Darcy watched him dress, watched as his gaze continually flicked to her ensuring that she made no attempt to move. She reclined with a stretch, displaying the swollen tongue-lashed peaks of her breasts. He seemed unreasonably pleased to see them and graced her with a quick nod before slipping from the room.

Darcy had been fully prepared to lie to get him to leave the room, but it had never come to that because not once had he actually asked for her input. He was, after all, entitled.

She rushed for her bag, hauling on jeans and a hoodie and hoping to God that Heimdall wasn't gifted with a superhuman sense of smell, because she reeked of sex.

It shouldn't have been easy to escape from an alien planet, but in the wash-up of the Thing, large parties of officials drifted toward the Bifrost and it was easy to get lost among the throng and if Heimdall hesitated when she requested passage to Midgard, it wasn't for long.

He'd simply asked, "You are quite certain that you wish to leave?"

And she was. She really was.

Chapter Text

It was easy for Darcy to tell herself that she'd made a lucky escape. It was just a fraction harder for her to believe it.

Darcy had planned to spend the days of Jane's absence taking extended coffee runs and generally doing a whole lot of nothing. Unfortunately, her brain had other ideas. She was overcome with a rush of productivity and spent her days overhauling and scrubbing down Jane's lab. Jane was due back on the Monday, so it was late Friday when Darcy finally sat down at her workstation and penned her resignation. Okay, so it was penned on the back of a twofer Cinnabon voucher and cited her final day as 'when I get hired somewhere else', but it was a step that she needed to take.

Funnily enough, it had been the events in Asgard that gave Darcy the boost to finally look for work more closely linked to her training. In some very small, squirrelled away place, a voice insisted that if she was good enough for a God, then she was probably capable of having a grown up job. She hadn't wanted to dignify his demand that she stay on as his mistress with too much consideration. But some idiotic part of her had wondered what it would be like. Not good, she'd decided. In the two years since they'd left New Mexico for a more stable existence in New York, Darcy had come no closer to working out what she was supposed to do with her life. Loki wasn't the only one who'd spent the last two years in a rut. The very idea that she even needed to work out something so trite rubbed her the wrong way, but Excel could only get a girl so far. The point was: if she hadn't been able to work out what she wanted in New York, she was hardly likely to figure it out in Asgard. She deserved to be more than just Loki's plaything.

She was on her way home, stopping at a noodle bar to pick up her dinner, when her phone rang.

Tony Stark was on her phone with a proposition. It wasn't the type of proposition that most girls hoped to get from a playboy billionaire, but it wasn't a bad one either.

"Pepper gave you back your phone privileges?" Darcy propped her hip against the counter while she waited for her Pad Thai.

"No 'hello' for your Uncle Tony?"

"Yeah," she juggled the packet of prawn crackers under her arm, snagging one and munching on it as she spoke. "Calling yourself that doesn't make you any less creepy."

"Heard you're in the market for a job."

She choked on her cracker. She'd put her resignation of Jane's desk maybe forty minutes ago. "You're watching Jane's lab?"

Tony made a small noise of disgust, "You think so little of me? I'm tapped into SHIELD. They're watching the lab. You want a job or not?"

"Not." She stuffed another cracker into her mouth and swept her hair a little more securely over the yellowing bruise at her temple.

"You haven't even heard my offer."

"Since when have you been concerned with entry level HR, anyway?"

"Pepper tells me I need to take an interest."

"No she doesn't, she tells you to keep out of this stuff."

"I promise excellent hours, a roguishly handsome boss, guaranteed sexual harassment, I could get you a cute uniform and a higher wage than you're on now - I've seen your bank balance, Darce."

Okay, this was going too far. Had Poli-Sci suddenly become a desirable field? Because as far as she knew, half of her graduating class were still slinging espressos at Starbucks. "What's in it for you?"

"The simple and abiding pleasure of your company?"

"You need to do better than that." Her phone beeped signalling another call. "I have another call."

"It's Fury, don't answer it. He's going to offer you a low-rung data entry job."

Precisely the sort of thing she was trying to get away from. "Wait, you're doing this just to get one over Fury?"

"Don't underestimate how far I'll go to get my kicks. He only wants to keep you close. Clint'll stare at you, he's creepy like that, Rogers won't appreciate your sense of humour, the cafeteria there is awful. You'll hate it."

Her number came up and she grabbed her order from the counter, "I'm hanging up now, Tony."

"Wait, wait! It's a legitimate offer! It's a Stark-funded start-up organisation, charitable type thing."

"Tax write-off?"

"Of course." He sounded appalled that she'd even bothered to ask. "Post-natural or supernatural disaster clean ups. We need someone to liaise with local and state governing bodies, deal with the bureaucratic stuff, get clearance, authorisation, coordinate with emergency services, kiss arse or whatever, so that our teams can go in and provide aid. Cuddle kittens. You shoot off press releases, organise external fundraising. I swear it's actually a pretty shitty job, but relevant to your field."

Katrina, New York and any one of the Avengers-related kerfuffles had needed some pretty serious tidying up. Darcy couldn't deny that it was an appealing offer. "This smacks of nepotism."

"You say this to a man who inherited a multinational arms company. How about this: I'll pay you half of what the job is worth and we can call it a strategic fiscal play on my end."

"I wasn't aware you understood the concept of 'fiscal responsibility'."

"I keep picking these words up from Pepper."

"You need to marry that woman," Darcy said as she started the three block hike back to her apartment.

"Working on it."

~*~

Jane had spent the last three days feeling like the world's shittiest girlfriend. She wasn't sure who had taken Darcy's disappearing act worse, Thor or Loki. Of course Loki had been the very image of calm nonchalance in the great hall that last morning. He'd made a rare show of fealty, kneeling at Odin's knee and speaking in a low voice. Only the animation of his hands belied his excitement.

Then Frigga had swept in, regal and golden and looking so so sorrowful as she'd gently brushed her hand through Loki's hair and spoke directly into his ear. He'd stiffened, drawn up to his full height and firmly shook his head. She'd reached for him then, a mother seeking to comfort her child.

"Something is amiss," Thor had said beside her as Loki had swiped away Frigga's arms and stormed from the hall.

"Darcy." Jane confirmed gently.

"I fear it is so. Loki is... exceedingly fond of Lady Darcy."

"And Darcy is..." She really couldn't think of an honest way to return the sentiment. At that very moment, Darcy was executing the first ever interplanetary walk of shame and Jane had to applaud her for finally having some good sense. Which brought her full circle to the whole 'world's shittiest girlfriend' thing, because in the days that followed Darcy's dash Jane had watched as Thor's shoulders slumped with a guilty weight and she knew that, even though he'd never voice such a thing, he felt guilt and regret that he - that they- had allowed Loki and Darcy to cross paths.

Two days before her planned return trip they were in bed, his head in her lap as she quietly stroked his temple.

"We had hoped," he began carefully, "That Darcy would... no. We had hoped too much. Be she drew him out in a way we had not seen since New York."

"She's just out of college," Jane was compelled to defend Darcy, "She just wants to have fun and... She's so young and this is a world of gods and monsters. It's not fair to expect that she'd hang around, Thor. I'm sorry."

"And you, my Jane?" He looked up at her with mournful eyes, "Will you flee in fear too? One day? Leave my brother and I to the Hell of our own hearts?"

"Not you," she tugged gently at his hair in reassurance. "You're not like the rest."

"You are wrong, love. We are, all of us, all at once both gods and monsters. One aspect rises when the other fails. I had watched with such hope, mother too, as Loki's beast was brought to heel and sat down at Darcy's feet."

"And now she's gone."

"He will not be kept from her. You must know that."

"It was just a fling, Thor. He can't possibly-"

"He can. He does."

A soft sigh slipped from Jane's lips. "Will she be safe?"

"We will hold him. But how long? A day? A decade?"

"But will she be safe?"

Thor got to his feet then, moving around the room and gathering her things. That was what she loved most about him. His understanding, about her work, about her world, about her need to return to Darcy and check on her.

"Poor Darcy was born beneath an ill-fated star, I fear. She has not been safe since the day the Norns wove the thread of her fate around my brother's."

~*~

Six weeks after accepting the position from Tony, Darcy begrudgingly admitted that the Stark Initiative was not the narcissistic tax write-off that she'd feared it would be. She was happy to step up and take her fair share of responsibility for that. She had worked hard and despite being out of her depth more often than not, the Initiative did good work. Despite business models that had mapped out humble beginnings for the charity, the Initiative had received its first national article just a few days earlier and, really, it shouldn't have come as a surprise. Nothing linked to the Stark name could hope for humble beginnings. It had helped that Tony had personally been bankrolling the whole thing and Darcy knew that she could pretty much take the Stark name to the bank (which she had done with affiliates and - much to Tony's annoyance - competitors). So while the money was coming in, the Initiative's profile still required a little work.

It was, Darcy silently griped as she dialled Tony for the sixth time that day, a rather importune time for Media Whore Stark to suddenly become camera shy.

"I could get a restraining order for this." Finally, he answered.

"I'm your employee. Tell JARVIS that he's off the Christmas card list, I can't believe he screened my calls."

"Very well, you've got my attention now." Darcy heard a cork pop in the background and thumped her forehead against her desk. The small open plan office was split into two sections, a reception out front and a bank of six standing desks behind a screen. It was a painfully trendy set up. She really hated the lack of seats and she didn't give a damn what the studies said. Darcy slumped to the floor and crossed her legs.

"Did you listen to any of my messages?"

"Give me the CliffsNotes."

"Ironman. Thursday. 3pm. That high school you guys trashed last week."

"That was the big guy, not me."

"Don't care."

"On a scale of 'one to very', how important is this?"

This was hard to explain to a man who called a day spent fighting space creatures 'Tuesday' and thought that having bottled water that would give him change out of a twenty was a 'travesty'. The Initiative was doing good stuff, but people needed to be aware and raising the profile of one charity in a sea of thousands had the potential to be a nightmare. Except that she had super-fucking-heroes on speed dial. "You promised. I've already banked up five 'Tony favours' and I want this to be one of them."

"Was I drunk when I promised? Did you make up the 'Tony favours'?"

"When aren't you drunk?" Darcy rubbed at her lower back and stretched. God, those desks were killing her back. She'd be happy to give up the purported health benefits if she could just have a fucking seat.

"Thursday?"

"Thursday. Also redeeming another Tony favour: I want seats in this office. Standing work stations are the worst idea ever."

"It's almost midnight, why are you even at the office?"

"You don't set my work hours," Darcy snapped, a little defensive, as she ended the call.

It wasn't that she'd become a raging workaholic in the space of a few weeks. It was just that there was a lot that needed to get done and if throwing herself into her laundry list of tasks meant that she wasn't mentally replaying a fling that had happened more than a month ago - with a guy she didn't even like - well, great. Because, alarmingly, the more she'd thought about it, the more she'd drawn on the ghost of their insane little 'thing', the more she wondered if maybe she did like him, just a bit. Maybe she had been wrong to run the way she had.

Not that it mattered now. It has been weeks and a guy like Loki wasn't exactly likely to get caught up on a mortal woman like her, no matter how intense he'd been that last morning.

Sometimes when she told herself that she actually believed it.

That night, as Darcy snagged her handbag from her bottom drawer and stood to leave, wasn't one of those times. It didn't help that Jane and Thor had taken to dropping by roughly twice a week, both at the office and at her apartment. It wasn't that they came around, it was the way that Jane glanced around, as if casing the joint, and then set in with questions about security systems and standard response times for their contracted security company. Thor had been as subtle as a freight train when he'd handed her a gold hammered coin, affixed to a long chain.

"If you ever have need of me..."

So she now had a mystical panic button and a bill from her security company for a 'false call out' (Thanks Jane). They both expected that she'd be getting a visitor at some point in the future. She wasn't stressed. It wasn't that she was wilfully disregarding her own safety, it was just that - try as she might - she couldn't fabricate any scenario in which Loki would harm her. Funny, since the man was a documented killer. It was just that he'd never touched her with anything but the most erotic and pleasing of intent.

And, really, she had far bigger things on her plate.

The most urgent, and something which could not be put off any longer, began its painful but quiet conclusion as she settled into a cab for the ride home. The niggling biting pains in her lower back began to radiate outward and converged in her abdomen with powerful crushing cramps.

Darcy wasn't stupid. She knew two things: one, she was pregnant and, two, she wouldn't be for much longer. The first she'd realised a couple weeks back, the second became bitterly apparent as she felt another sharp throb and a hot wet trickle between her thighs and the vinyl of the cab seat. She leaned forward and tapped the Perspex of the driver's cabin twice, then redirected him toward an all night Emergency department.

The cab ride costs her an extra $50, and sucky though it was, it was only fair. It wasn't like she was the first person to bleed in an Emergency department and it wasn't a huge amount of blood, but she was thankful all the same when she finished registering at the desk and a nurse handed her some clean scrubs and directed her to a bathroom.

When she returned to the waiting room she took her place in a row of vacant seats and waited to be called. For a few minutes she was called into a small office with a triage nurse, who carried out a quick assessment, took blood and then gently advised Darcy that if she was in the process of a miscarriage medical intervention would not help. The nurse gave her two paracetamol and explained that she'd need to wait a while to see the doctor just to assess the bleeding and take care of the pain.

Back in the waiting room, she sat in her seat, knees drawn up to her chest and head resting against her knees as she slowly bled out and weathered the rolling cramps that seized her every few minutes.

She knew she could call Jane, but she just felt too silly. She thought about her Mum, but couldn't bring herself to do it, after all, it really wasn't a big deal and good daughters didn't jump from 'single' to 'miscarriage' in the space of a phone call.

She immediately dismissed the idea of calling Tony, he was a great guy, but they weren't at that place in their friendship and part of her was just a little worried that he'd try to assemble the Avengers in an effort to... What? Fight it? No. In the end, the only thing she could really do was sit quietly in in the waiting room and let it run its course, guiltily mourning the child she'd almost had with a man she had no business with.

~*~

Frigga shuffled through the gleaming white halls of the hospital wearing pale pink scrubs and the glamour of a young nurse, she slumped her shoulders in a fair simulation of exhaustion and entered the waiting room. The grief and pain of women and mothers had called to her always, she was no stranger to their misery. But the grief that had called to her that night had been a small and peculiar lump in her throat. An indigestible sense of wrongness. The girl's pain was tightly wound, cosseted and... precious. As if the grief itself could replace what was lost. More than that, it was the sad and shameful resignation of the girl that had roused her from her chamber and urged her to investigate. It had been far too long since she had felt such pain, this secular world had no need of prayer and deities. People only believed what they had seen and by her estimation, only two Midgardian women had seen her of late.

Darcy was easy to locate in the bright, clinical setting, she was far too pale, smaller than she'd once been. Her hair escaped a messy bun and framed her face in limp tendrils. She was so very alone. The poor girl held her knees to her chest and rode out her pain with small winces and flared nostrils. Frigga sat with her then, gently petting her knee and trying to remain nothing more than a comforting stranger. All she truly wanted to do was gather Darcy close to her chest and whisper of the endless truths and triumphs of their gender.

"Hi," Darcy tried to smile at her and Frigga ached. She held up her other had in askance and Darcy nodded. Frigga's palm brushed across Darcy's stomach, but she felt no spark of life there. She could offer no aid, a life was not something she could easily end or begin against the will of fate.

"Hello. How are you?"

"Been better."

Frigga nodded at that, then pressed her fingertips once more to Darcy's stomach and willed the contracting muscles within to be calm and work at a more sedate pace.

"Should I summon the father?" She asked quietly. Perhaps it was cruel to ask, knowing as she did that Loki was so out of reach and perhaps even unwelcome, but she had to know how the young girl felt about her son.

Darcy's soft snort was unexpected, "He's, uh, incommunicado."

"I could try to-"

"I don't think he'd want to come," Darcy rushed to add. "This," she waved at her stomach, "It's unplanned."

Loki had proven, several times over, to be a proud and attentive father. He loved his children, even the beastly ones, with a blind acceptance that she feared had sprung from his own childhood. Moreover, Loki never did anything without design or intent.

His intent may not have been a child, but a bond? Some binding force to mark Darcy as his? He was capable of all that and more.

"I can be very persuasive."

Darcy hesitated, then slowly shook her head. "So can he. He's dealing with some stuff right now."

They feel into silence then, Frigga petting and soothing Darcy as those dreadful hours passed and finally she was attended by a Midgardian healer. He gave a paltry offering of medicine and prescribed rest and counselling. Frigga saw Darcy into a 'cab', a Midgard conveyance, and returned once more to Odin's chamber.

It seemed strange that until that moment Frigga had only considered that Darcy might save her son, why had she never seen how Darcy might need Loki too?

"Well?" Odin crossed the empty chamber, unclasping his fur cloak and holding it open to her. She stepped into the fur and his embrace and released a long-held breath.

"Free him," she whispered into his chest.

"He is violent."

"He is our son and, moreover, if you do not free him then I shall be moved to violence."

Odin's arms tightened about her, "The risk-"

"Is nothing!" The thump of her fist against his chest was muted by the fur, "He will come to heel by her hand! He will be our son once more but you would risk it all to save face?"

"You pin too much on the girl."

"No. No. I too had thought her a simple confection of bosom and sweetness, enough to catch his eye. To calm him. We are so very wrong."

The opposite was true, they had both seen that. Loki grew more unstable with each day, more bold in the use of his Jotun power and more determined to break free of his bonds. Darcy had not calmed him, she had unhinged him.

"It is not prudent, love," Odin set his chin atop her head and closed his eye. "I cannot, in good conscience, unleash him once more."

~*~

Darcy wasn't an idiot, but sometimes she did a very good job of appearing to be one. The morning after 'that night' (she felt safest referring to it as such) she had returned home with enough time for a shower and a quick nap. Then, as the city had woken and crunched into gear, she'd dressed, choked down two over-the-counter painkillers with a cup of too-hot coffee and left for work.

The period of rest had been a suggestion, not an order and time for convalescing and mourning was for softer, sweeter, more maternal types. Darcy felt only guilt, the shameful hint of relief and a fleeting pang of regret. Girls like her didn't deserve downtime. She threw herself back into work, carrying herself through whatever discomfort and upset that lingered with nothing more than caffeine and snippets of Dr Phil in the break room. If Jane or Tony noticed anything, they must have chalked it up to an increased workload.

It wasn't until Saturday morning, the following fortnight, when she found herself alone in her office sorting paper clips according to colour, that she realised it was time for a day off. It was a nice enough day to make the journey home on foot and it wasn't like she dressed up when she came into the office on a weekend. That day she'd gone with a pair of old jeans and a too-loose NIN concert tee.

Of course, she realised after two blocks of walking, New York streetscapes weren't winning awards for their idyllic scenery and though there was a tough and rugged coolness to the hard and advertisement-choked streets, she really wasn't in the mood for the put-upon weekend work crowd or the stopping and starting of the masses of tourists.

Darcy stood in a jostling crowd of people, surveying the thick traffic, waiting for a light to change and considering the wisdom of just getting a cab when there seemed to be a surge in the crowd that pitched her forward and off the gutter. She flailed helplessly for a second before someone snagged her elbow in a hard grip and yanked her backward into the safety of the crowd. Her hand fluttered to her throat and she gave a decidedly uncool gasp as she turned around to thank her saviour. All Darcy found was maybe two dozen people Hell bent on avoiding eye contact. Business as usual then. But someone had just saved her arse, even if nobody was willing to take the credit.

She took the rest of the walk home a little slower (and with a lot more attention to her own general safety). By the time she reached her front door her stomach had worked itself into an impressive knot and it took her a full five minutes (and a rather stern mental lecture) for her to pluck up the courage to calmly breeze into her apartment, pass the sofa where Loki sat and grab a bottle of water from the fridge in her kitchenette.

Of course he was there. The only surprise was that it had taken him nearly nine weeks to show. She uncapped the bottle and took a sip. Then, with the kitchen island safely between them, she turned back to slowly peruse him.

Loki looked good, but then she was a faulty source when it came to assessing his appearance. He'd ruined her for all other men, apparently, because not a single living breathing man could compare to him in her eyes. Still, it was easy for any man to look good in a bespoke suit, but it was the hint of a deep green silk vest beneath the dark charcoal of his jacket that really elevated the look. His hair had been cut short and without its usual slick it curled dark and glossy above his ears. He looked a little gaunter than usual, but it was hard to tell between poor health and sulking when it came to Loki, both looked the same on him.

He might have looked like a completely different person were his top lip not curled in such a perfect echo of his usual 'Loki is not impressed' expression. Long (God) fingers tapped against his knee, all irritation and no rhythm, his gold Breitling caught the mid-morning light in her apartment. What undid her were his shoes, brand new and perfectly unmarked dark green Chucks echoed the colour of his vest and turned Loki into a prime example of a GQ cover model.

She plucked at the unravelling hem of her tee and glanced down at her own scuffed Chucks, they'd had a blow-out last week and she'd patched them up with some duct tape.

Darcy briefly wondered if they could just get down to the messy, hard and inevitably damaging sex now, so that she'd have something to tide her over while they got through the awful conversation that was bound to come. Not about the... 'that night', just the rest.

"'Sup?" It was as good a way to start the ball rolling as any.

Loki's lips simply pressed into a thin line as he looked around her small studio apartment with distaste. He shifted uncomfortably on her sofa as if he found it undesirable. He should see it without the throw blanket.

"I was unaware you resided in such squalor. Thor should have seen you into better lodgings years ago."

Darcy took offence at that. Her cosy little place was free of vermin, neat, and would be thieves (rightly) assumed that it wasn't worth burgling. "Look, if you've come here to judge my decor, then you might as well-"

"Did I not please you?" His question was softly spoken, delivered with a hesitancy she never would have expected from him. He watched her, waiting and braced for an answer.

How could she explain that around him she was both pleased and displeased to extreme degrees? As a brief fling it had been pretty damn good. Loki knew how to... er, fling. But she'd been left with the cruel and painful fallout of what they'd done. She'd returned home to walk the streets of a city he'd destroyed, she'd thrown herself into her new job and gone on for weeks with only Tony's banter to keep her smiling.

It wasn't right, it wasn't normal, but she'd actually missed her rapid-fire encounters with Loki.

And in the most perverse of ways she'd come to miss his honesty. He had been open and tireless in his passions, even if he had been a touch high-handed and intense. She'd just been confused and evasive. If she weighed things up, she was afraid that the scale of wrongdoings would tip toward her. Loki might have been an arse in the first instance, but he'd done nothing but pay for it. First with Odin's bizarre and cruel punishment, then with her own constant refusals. He'd even take that thing with Fandral in his stride (or as much stride as a God with a short fuse possessed). Truly, the only thing Loki had ever been ruthless about was getting her off. That and keeping her fed.

He couldn't be held accountable for her own poor judgement. But then she had done the right thing when she left Asgard and all her reasons for leaving stood. She could not be a fleeting plaything.

Not to mention the... her hand fluttered to her stomach. There was a new and entirely fucked up element to their 'thing' that Loki didn't even know about.

Not that he needed to know. It was done. Finished. Darcy's body had recovered and she'd been waiting with grim resolution for her head to wrap around it too.

Loki's intense gaze didn't waver as he repeated his question. "Did. I. Not. Please. You?"

"Of course I was pleased," she snapped, "Wasn't that the point? Get off and move on?"

He vanished then, not as in 'got up and walked out', but just simply ceased to be sitting upon her sofa. He was there, then he wasn't. Darcy wasn't left to ponder his disappearance for long. Or at all, because a blast of cold rushed at her back and suddenly he was there, all male heat pressed against the length of her back. Long fingers bit into the nape of her neck and she dropped her water bottle as she was propelled forward and bent over the kitchen bench. He stopped just shy of slamming her face into the chipped lime Formica, instead pressing her cheek into the surface as he moulded his body against her back. His knees dug into the back of her thighs, his groin pressed hard up against her arse and his chest flattening her breasts against the bench.

"Don't test me with word play, Darcy. You are ill-equipped to match me." His lips teased at her ear as he flipped aside a few loose strands of hair with his nose and flexed his fingers against her neck - enough that she couldn't doubt his power or anger.

She'd been right about him being one scary-as-fuck ex-boyfriend. It was hard to pull off an insouciant Gallic shrug while being bent over hard and trying desperately not to close her eyes and just greedily suck in his heat and scent. He still smelled of Asgardian forests and unnamable exotic spices.

"So everything is in working order, then?" She tried for a light tone, but it came out slightly slurred as her mouth was half smooshed against a pile of bills (she could proudly say that only one was overdue).

He rocked his hips against her then and she felt him harden against her arse as his spare hand moved to her hip, "Perfect working order."

"I was referring to your magic."

"Was it not a sort of magic? What transpired between us?"

There really wasn't a lot she could say to that.

His hand slipped up to grab her chin and pull her face further aside. Loki's thumb stroked at the line of her jaw. "Look at me, Darcy."

And, even though it was the dumbest thing she'd ever do, she looked. Standing over her, aggressive and demanding as he was, he should have been terrifying. She should have recoiled and begged and run. Instead, the intensity in his eyes, the uncompromising set of his jaw... the strength in him fortified her, acted as a balm to soothe all her frayed and jagged edges.

Darcy closed her eyes then, but it was too late. The tears had already started and it would be a long time before they stopped.

Chapter Text

Darcy woke with an absence of clothing, a fuzzy head and some stellar gaps in her memory.

Just like being in college again.

Early evening had snuck into her room and she estimated that she'd lost at least five hours in the yawning gape of time that stood between her last memory of breaking down in Loki's arms and waking alone. Darcy groped blindly for her cell, her fingers brushed over something cool and smooth and through bleary eyes she could make out the oil lamp that she'd left on Asgard in her haste to beat feet. She gently pressed the lamp aside and mentally filed it as a problem for Tomorrow Darcy. Her fingers continued to search and she wasn't surprised to find her cell exactly where she normally left it to charge. Loki was a detail oriented kind of guy.

The lamp and the cell confirmed two things: one, Loki had put her to bed and, two, he'd been watching her for some time if he understood her nightly ritual well enough to put her phone where it belong (yet, strangely, not well enough to know where she kept her pyjamas).

With a small, defeated, whimper Darcy brought up Jane's number, hit dial, set it onto speaker and perched the phone in the valley between her breasts. The original 'hands free'.

Jane picked up after the first ring, "Darcy! Darcy, you're there, thank god."

"Er, yes, I rang you."

"Yes, yes. Good. Great. How do you feel about coming over to my place? Because it's been a while and..."

"...there's a psychotic ex who might just be out on parole?"

"Well, yeah, uh... yeah. That too."

"You're a bit late, Jane. He's been and gone."

"And you're, y'know, okay?"

'Okay' was a funny term. A quick mental inventory turned up ten fingers, ten toes and several hours spent snuggled up in bed. And still, Darcy felt very far from okay.

"I'm fine." The lie was easy enough, she'd been reciting it for some weeks now. "Look, Jane, I just though that you should know in case I..." Turn up mangled in a trash compactor. "Just in case."

"I'll come round."

"I'm fine."

"I'll send Thor around." It was more threat than friendly offer.

"I'll put the taser on charge." Jane's small noise of disgust suggested that she'd given up.

"Honestly," Darcy flopped her head to the side and traced one shaking finger down the delicate glass of the lamp. "I'm fine."

Fine fine fine.

Fine.

Tomorrow Darcy was in for a treat.

~*~

Loki sat alone on a cracked vinyl booth and contemplated the bitter swill before him. The drip filtered coffee was hard to swallow, scarcely worthy of human consumption... and, somehow, he knew that Darcy would still drink it.

She had a penchant for welcoming that which others disdained. He pushed the coffee away with a sneer. Darcy deserved better and, were he a better man (or much of a man at all), he'd leave her be. Leave her for a kinder, gentler man.

Shards of ice stabbed at his gut at the mere thought. He wasn't a 'better man' and he'd rend the nine realms apart before he permitted another to take what he meant to have as his own. Therein lay his dilemma: where his Lady Darcy was concerned, his attitudes had shifted. It was no longer enough to take her as his own. She had to be given. She would come to him of her own volition. She would come, she would give herself to him.

Eventually.

He could wait. He had time. Loki was adept at waiting.

What Loki was not adept at was dealing with Darcy's tears. He had felt that first hot tear fall, greedily absorbed by his shirt - as if that too could not get enough of her - and his very soul (that mangled and malnourished beast) had roared in his chest, ready to combat unseen ghosts and unknown foes all in his errant lady's name.

Then came that most horrific realisation, that insidious whisper that suggested this foe was not unseen, not unknown. Darcy had not wept in the sanctuary of his embrace, but in the cage of his arms.

Not that he hadn't handled their reunion marvellously. His lip curled as he looked around the diner, the one Darcy frequented for lunch breaks. Following her, stalking her every footstep for days had done nothing to soothe his mood.

She. Had. Left. Him. Some mean, small, part of him still wanted her to pay for that, still wanted him to take his recompense from her sweet plump body. He wanted to visit all manner of perversion on her lush curves until she was too weak, too sated to leave his side.

Even now his gut burned with the need to return to her. He had called on reserves of strength previously unknown when he had pulled her close, let her sob, and then whispered the words of his mother into her ear. She'd slumped so quickly, so heavily, that he knew her tears, her exhaustion had been building for some time. Little wonder, given the hours she had kept at that damned job of hers. She worked with no regard to her frailty, her limitations or even her mortality. Not to mention that she'd damn near flung herself into oncoming traffic. If he hadn't been there to haul her back into safety... Loki shuddered.

"An ill-wind blows, brother?"

"... And you ride upon it." Loki pinched the bridge of his nose and cracked a single eye to mark Thor's approach. At least he'd had the good sense to don Midgardian garments. Not garments of any good taste, mind, but one could only expect so much of Thor.

"Father sends his regards, and bids you recall your vow," Thor shifted uncomfortably in the tight denim of his jeans as he dwarfed the bench opposite his own.

"I have done no harm here, Thor." Loki bristled and reached for the coffee, taking a generous swallow of the vile brew in an attempt to busy his hands, lest he clench them.

"And still Jane cannot entice Darcy to quit her apartment to take a meal this evening." Nobody but Thor could convey such a wealth of censure with a smile.

Loki's mind slipped to Darcy. He'd left her, sleep soft, naked and spread across her snug bed. A double, but still barely enough space for the both of them. He'd touched her then, been unable to still his hands from from skimming her curves and greedily learning the nip of her waist and the full and heavy globes of her breasts. In truth, he was little more than a dog stealing scraps. Even now her soft heat and that glorious bare dip between her thighs beckoned him, called him back to her side. One week, one night with her was not enough. He imagined that perhaps just that fleetingly sumptuous taste of her was but a cruel hint of what he could have. If she'd let him.

Loki had made an art of wanting, even stealing, but when he'd watched her sleep, her breath passing in small troubled sighs, he had vowed that she would kiss him. She would come to him, full lips eager and searching. Perhaps he'd deny her for a spell...

Loki's lips twisted in a bitter smile.

Perhaps not.

"Do you forget who holds the power in this dalliance, Thor? The good Lady Darcy has run roughshod over my more delicate aspect."

Thor narrowed his eyes, "I did not think you possessed of a 'delicate aspect'."

"And I did not credit you with a brain, yet here we are." Loki spread his hands to gesture to the modest surrounds of the diner.

"So you come a-courting?" Thor clapped his hands together in glee.

Well, since aggressively displays of desperation hadn't put him in good stead with Darcy... Loki rolled his eyes, but still gave the slightest of nods.

Thor smiled that damnably good natured grin of his and swiped at Loki's coffee, finishing it in one long swallow. He lifted the empty mug momentarily, then caught himself, returned it to the table and turned to smile at the line of waitresses that had swarmed brandishing coffee urns.

"Another... please," he asked with a winning smile.

~*~

Yesterday Darcy was an utter bitch.

Yesterday Darcy should have done the smart thing and hauled arse to Antigua or Fury's fold-out couch or somewhere safe. Apparently Yesterday Darcy wasn't all that bright, either. Darcy tugged at her fitted Target pencil skirt suit, setting it to rights and checking that the buttons hid her decision to match the suit with a fitted Voodoo Queens shirt. She'd paired the suit with her Deceptively Comfortable Wedge Heels and called it an outfit. She'd needed a little fortifying that morning and looking like a kick-arse business woman was the first order of the day. The second was coffee. The third and fourth were also coffee and the fifth was a fleeting moment of contemplating the wisdom of just adopting a crack cocaine habit and calling it a day.

She was just coming to the conclusion that she actually liked having teeth when she walked into the office and smack bam into one Tony Stark juggling two office chairs.

"...so the industry standard for office chairs is not at all where I had hoped it would be. So, good news: Stark Industries does chairs now." Tony was all forward motion and no eye contact, "Well, Darcy Chairs. These ones are made for your bangin' proportions and-"

"I see Jarvis has caught up on last months Health Care Fund billing?" Darcy dropped her handbag to the floor and awkwardly turned her attention to her takeaway coffee and she picked one of the plethora of chairs (she counted roughly three per desk) plonked down and gave a tentative wiggle. They were excellent chairs.

Tony had paused where he stood, uncomfortably gripping the chairs. "It was flagged as conspicuous because you didn't take any leave. I only looked into it because I expected it to be a clerical error."

"It wasn't." Darcy set her coffee aside and looked up to Tony, who looked like he'd dearly love to be battling rabid cyborgs instead of discussing her miscarriage.

"I feel like this situation requires emotional sensitivity, should I call Pepper?"

"Nice chairs." Darcy did a woeful job of deflecting.

"Stark Healthcare extends to counselling."

"Excellent spin, could get some good desk-to-desk drift going..."

"I could beat the guy up for you?"

Darcy gave a wistful sigh. "Probably not a great idea."

Tony's eyebrow kicked up as he set his chairs down, sat in one and scooted across to sit beside her. "So you're off the market? Because I'd put in a few good words about you with Steve and I think he was maybe, possibly, getting ready to think about contemplating agonising over asking you out sometime in the next decade."

On the market... Off the market. It wasn't that simple. "The market's a confusing place."

"And still you managed to stop somewhere along the way for a few free samples."

"This is sounding eerily like a lecture..." Darcy pressed her lips together and narrowed her eyes at him.

Tony fell quiet and Darcy let her attention drift toward the partition that separated the office from the main reception area. Mid-morning sun flashed briefly as the front door opened behind the partition. Beside her, Tony spun his hand as if brandishing an imaginary hammer. "It wasn't... You know. Biceps?"

"Credit the woman with some taste, Stark." Loki stepped clear of the partition and propped one shoulder against the wall. He wore yet another bespoke suit, this one a dark navy blue matched with a deep emerald tie, green Chucks (unscuffed, of course) and a vaguely put-upon expression.

Tony choked a little, "This can't seriously be the guy who -" Darcy gave a short shake of the head, "- you hooked up with?! Take it from the father of poor life choices, you can do better."

Darcy considered Loki - and she wasn't buying his oh-so-elegantly disinterested pose. "Dude looks good in a suit."

"Steve looks good in a suit. And leather... if that's your thing. Which it evidently is."

Darcy wrapped her arms around her ribs and gave an uneasy shrug.

"Darce," Tony stood with a pained expression, "Do you have any idea what you're doing?"

"Not a single damn one."

"You're going to do it anyway?"

Darcy gave a shrug. Loki didn't feature in her future, she was sure of that, even as the thought sat heavily behind her ribs. He'd come for her with a purpose and Darcy wasn't sure how she'd be able to dissuade him, but Loki had never wronged her, not intentionally. She at least owed him the pretence of a fair chance.

Tony made a quick grab for her hand, pulling it into his own and focusing on her face. There was no trace of the billionaire playboy to be found, only an intense and kind of terrifying sharpness. "Here's the deal, sweetheart," Loki tensed where he stood at the endearment, "Slash over there breaks your nail, breaks a minor traffic law, breaks your heart - I don't give a shit which - you call me. I have a whole posse willing to come down on his arse hard."

Loki didn't really seem to register, his focus was firmly on the inside of Darcy's wrist where Tony's thumb rested against her pulse. "If you've any love of that hand, lackwit, you'll remove it at once."

Tony grinned as he leisurely traced his fingers from Darcy's wrist to her elbow before stroking her gently and removing his hand at his own, slower than slow, pace.

"Well, this has been fun. But I think you can both get lost now and leave me to my work," she made a rather elaborate show of swivelling in her chair, pumping the elevation lever a dozen times and turning her focus to her laptop.

For once, Tony took a hint and left, Loki wasn't going to be quite so easy to persuade. It took far too much focus to simply log into her profile, all the while feeling his gaze upon her back. She was thankful that, after the departure of Tony and his handful of couriers, the office was empty. The handful of staff kept flexible hours, some still studied, some would be dropping their kids off at school, the others would be attending the out of office restoration of a library downtown.

Out of the corner of her eye, Loki propped a hip against desk.

A moment passed and she ignored the trim hip and perfect butt propped against her workspace.

Another minute passed and he slid an inch or two closer.

She reached for her coffee. Another inch closer.

"So," she sipped her coffee, "Is the aim to end up in my lap, or will you be getting to the point anytime soon?"

He seemed to mull over the question for a moment, "Is your lap an option? Because I can't say that the idea doesn't hold a good deal of appeal."

Her hard glare dared him to just try.

"Perhaps not." He paused, cleared his throat, "Darcy, I was... unkind last night. I have not..." He seemed genuinely uncomfortable to be so at a loss for words, "I have not wanted for some time. Have not desired since..."

"The Chitauri," she scowled down at her coffee.

"It was the culmination of centuries desire, can you understand that? It surpassed my want of... women and tenderness. It consumed me."

"And then it spat you out," Darcy let the words lash at him. She would not pity him his spectacular fall from grace. People had fucking died.

"You were unexpected, Darcy, unwanted. But fate would not leave me to lick my wounds. Instead you come, you compound them. You tear at them." His voice broke and she refused to look up at him. "My greatest deception was telling myself that I was immune."

Long fingers gently pinched her chin and tilted her gaze to meet his.

"You have not known fear, Darcy, until you have found that which you most desire and then lost it twice in mere days."

Confusion flashed across her face. "I left once."

"I nearly lost you at the lake. If I had not found you..." His fingertips flashed icy cold.

Wait, he had found her? Darcy pushed her chair away from the desk and out herself out of his reach. She remembered so little of the time after she'd been fished out of the lake. She'd only assumed that it was Jane who had found her. But then those fleeting memories of cold and the strong arms desperately gripping at her all made so much more sense if Loki had been the one to save her.

Not that it changed a damn thing. The laundry list of reasons that had driven her to leave Asgard stood. Did he think that just because he'd brought his business all up in her 'hood she'd roll onto her back and welcome him with open arms?

Not that the idea was without appeal. Because that suit was fitted and Darcy had a pulse so, y'know, she looked. At least he seemed a little more chill (ha!) than he had the previous day.

She crossed her arms, beneath her breasts and cocked a single eyebrow. "So you're here to..."

"Press my suit."

"Yeah, we already pressed. It was fun."

And just a little catastrophic. Not that he could know that. Ever.

Darcy braced herself for the coming rage. He didn't like being contradicted when it came to his vision for their relationship (non-entity that it was). Instead, he smiled slowly and adjusted his tie, then gave a short tug to each shirt cuff before dropping down next to her and speaking so closely that his lips brushed the shell of her ear. "Fun? I haven't even started with you, Darcy Lewis."

This time, she felt a chill that had nothing to do with Loki's freaky blue voodoo.

~*~

If he were to remain in Midgard for any stretch of time, Loki supposed it would benefit him to grow accustomed to the new ways and norms that had evolved in the ages that had passed since he had last truly condescended to tarry among mortals. He allowed himself to be swept up in the foot traffic and for once his focus was turned from Darcy. He wasn't following her unseen, not haunting her steps as he had in the days before he made himself known. The mass of people spewed into the subway, leaving him to fabricate a MetroCard as he moved through the turnstile and strolled toward a platform.

His intention had been to simply take the train for a few short stops, to watch, to learn. Instead he found himself in an intense staring contest with a small child. They sat on opposing benches and Loki could only marvel at how boldly the human stared at him. She was a tiny thing, barely out of the nursery. Her dark mass of hair was barely contained in a deep green ribbon, small medallions, flashy lengths of fabric and bright trinkets had been wound roughly into her hair. Tiny legs were encased in pink tights that clashed horribly with a lime green tutu, her Captain America shirt was oft-washed, a clear favourite from her wardrobe.

Little, nervous, glitter-tipped fingers tightly clutched at a cardboard carton of bright foil-wrapped sweets.

Loki was at once enamoured. The tiny imp screwed up her nose at him, then proceeded to watch him out of narrow eyes for a handful of stops.

"If you want to stare, mister," she finally spoke, much to her mother's embarrassment, "You're gonna hafta buy a chocolate." She dropped a pointed stare to the sweets in her lap.

"Buy a..." Loki propped his elbows on his knees and leaned forward.

"For the library. At my school."

"Is there not already a library at you school?"

"Not since the Cit-cif-" She fumbled the words.

"Chitauri." Her mother interjected.

The child nodded gravely, even though there was no way she could recall the attack from nearly three years prior. Loki dug into his pocket and slipped a note from his cash fold, a genuine one this time. He handed her a hundred, but she looked dismayed at his offering. "That's like a billion dollars. I can't give you change."

"Well," Loki tucked the note firmly into her tray, "a library is an important thing. Perhaps you should take it all."

Her eyes widened as she grabbed a large chocolate bar and pressed it into his palm. "Take this one, it doesn't have any nuts it in. They're gross."

She turned her attention back to the carton and began to scratch around, searching. After a few moments she clutched something in her fist, passed the tray off to her mother and launched herself across the gap down the middle of the train and onto the bench beside him, she scrambled to stand beside him and as the train lurched Loki made a quick grab for a handful of tutu to stabilise her. A tiny pink tongue darted out, clenched between teeth as she concentrated not on keeping her balance - her faith in his grip on her complete - but gripping the lapel of his jacket and using small clumsy fingers to stab a small pin into the fabric. It was a tiny green plastic book, pinned crookedly. With a slightly cocked head she surveyed her work and gave a satisfied nod. Her mother watched on with a wide smile.

"It's a collector pin, so people know I'm collecting money for school. It's mine. But you can have it, I got another." She pressed a small palm against the pin, to make sure it was secure, then slipped back across the carriage to her mother.

Loki made it one more stop before he stumbled from the train, fell to his knees on the platform and was violently ill.

~*~

This time, Darcy was so positive that she'd find Loki sitting on her sofa when she got home that she made sure to buy two noodle boxes and splurged on a $20 bottle of red, rather than her usual $5 mystery bin pick. It seemed at ends with her ultimate goal to be buying dinner. Everybody knew that feeding strays was a sure fire way of making sure that they hung around. Still, they both needed to eat. There was no point in mistreating the man.

"I did knock," he supplied from the sofa where he lounged with his usual ease.

"Yes," Darcy noted as she dumped her bags on the kitchen counter, "But, customarily, I should be inside the apartment to admit you when that happens. Don't pull this babe in Wonderland shit with me, this isn't your first time at the rodeo."

"Yes, but I find Midgard much changed." He looked like shit, she noticed that pretty quickly. Well, shit by Loki's usually impeccable standards. His suit was creased, jacket folded over the back on the sofa and his sleeves rolled up to his elbows. He seemed pale, more so than usual which put him one shade above 'corpse'.

"So you should. You changed it."

She watched as his fingers searched for his jacket and brushed across a tacky plastic pin, as if to check that it was still there. Long fingers continued to stroke the pin as he spoke. "If I had not... transgressed so, would you want me?"

'What if' was dangerous territory, so Darcy simply shrugged out of her jacket and kicked off her shoes as she popped the bottle of wine and poured them both a generous mug full. She nearly dropped the bottle when, mid pour, the mugs shimmered and morphed into crystal glasses. "Yo, Mindfreak, give me a heads up next time you plan on fucking with the laws of physics."

She handed him his wine and box of noodles as she dropped down onto the sofa, leaving a respectable cushion length between them.

"You made me a meal?" He flicked at the lip of the carton.

"Purchased. Don't get excited. It's only because I'd have felt rude eating in front of you."

"I could have taken you out."

"I'm exhausted," Darcy kicked her feet up onto her Ikea coffee table and tucked into her own dinner.

"Stark works you too hard." Loki poked a single chopstick into his carton, narrowed his eyes, swirled it and withdrew a finely crafted silver fork in its stead.

"There's a lot of work to be done." She wondered, briefly, how many indirect jibes and reminders she could make before he tired of her. He had brought a city - her city - to its knees, did he think she'd let him off lightly? Worse - did he think that only her forgiveness was required? His redemption wasn't hiding in her apartment and it wasn't going to win her over either. At the end of the day - spectacular physical compatibility aside - they were just too different. He was kind of an arse, only a few thousand years her senior and, oh yeah, another species.

And now her deepest wound, the loss of a child, would be forever wound up in him. Wanted or not, she couldn't help but paint their child in her mind: a diminutive force of nature with glossy curls and a winning grin. Even his presence invited painful and dangerous musings.

"Can you read minds?" She asked suddenly. "Should I go fashion a tin-foil hat or something?"

"Some. Most, actually," he confessed, "But rarely those close to me. Friends or family. To know another's mind requires an utter lack of preconception. Were I to read Thor's mind I would find only my own musings reflected. Jumbled memories of sparring in our youth, my own... leanings and emotions reflected back at me."

"And me?"

"You are quite safe."

"You can't read me? At all?"

He opened his mouth, shut it as if carefully choosing his words, then began again, "I... desire you greatly, Darcy. I see only my own carnal desire reflected back at me."

"And my... uh, carnal desire?"

He smiled then, some of his weariness seeping away, "Is there carnal desire you wish to hide from me, Darcy?"

Her 'nothing-to-see-here' shrug came off jerky and forced. Long fingers ghosted up the side of her thigh where her skirt had crept up.

"Surely you know that your every desire is my fondest wish? My immediate command..."

Oh, no, seriously, if he was going to play dirty she didn't stand a chance. Certain, trampy, parts of her anatomy were reasoning that since she'd already committed the crime once, reoffending wasn't the worst idea in the world.

Except for the part where their one and only complete fuck had left her pregnant and more than just a little confused. She flicked his hand away, even as her mind raced with any number of kinky scenarios that she'd happily engage in with Loki. It seemed that almost nothing was undoable with the man...

Except, of course, kissing.

Darcy set her half-eaten noodles aside, drained her wine and then moved to the kitchen for a refill. What she wanted right now (well, what she and the wine wanted, because no way was this all on her) was a little revenge. With a neat hop and wiggle, she launched herself up onto her kitchen bench. From her perch she could see Loki quite clearly on the sofa, he set his own dinner aside and watched her, waiting.

"What if I wanted... a show?"

"Of what nature?"

"I want what you saw that first night on Asgard. Consider it a courtesy that at least you're aware that I'm watching."

"Here?" His hands swept wide to indicate her sofa.

Darcy sipped her wine.

"Now?" He reached for his already loosened tie.

More wine. She didn't trust herself to speak without squealing in delight.

If she had a single, fully-functional, brain cell she'd call a stop to it. But then, there he was with an indulgently curled lip and eyes shining. He slipped the tie from his collar, flinging it across the room to catch on her bare toes. Something about this tentative playing had revived him...

Darcy flicked the tie up and caught it in one hand, absently winding it about her fingers. It smelled of him. Her whole apartment did. Between his scent and the wine she felt bolstered enough to have just a little fun. It wasn't like she was hurting anyone, especially if she remained seated on the kitchen bench.

Loki popped the top two buttons of his shirt, flashing a glimpse of long pale neck and chest. "I await your pleasure, my lady."

Somehow, she doubted that. Loki was, and always had been, out to please himself. All the grand declarations in the world wouldn't change that. Darcy held her hand up and twirled his tie. "Get to it, peeping Tom."

It was a terrible idea, Darcy confessed to herself as he undid the rest of his shirt and parted it. If he was shy, he didn't show it. And why the hell would he be shy? He was a Rodin marble come to life on her sofa. Her eyes devoured him, greedily slipping from his strong collarbones, to his dark flat nipples, then his ridged abdomen... The vee of his hips disappeared into his trousers and his fingers dragged up one side of the impala horn tattoo that ran from hip to ribcage.

"What are they?" She asked before finishing her wine.

His eyes caught hers, "You've been paying attention..."

"They aren't always there."

He held her gaze as he stroked one horn, slowly, precisely... erotically. She nearly asked if he wanted some 'alone time'. But then there was no 'alone time', not between them. The tattoo responded to his touch, surging to life and glowing with an enchanting golden energy. It grew in dimension until he was pulling it from his body. It shimmered golden, molten, for a moment, then took full form.

"I always knew you had an unhealthy attachment to that thing."

Loki chuckled as he tossed his helmet behind the sofa and dropped his hands to the fastening of his trousers. He stopped then, stroking at the edge of the fabric, revelling in her attention. A quick slip of the wrist had them unfastened, the fly slipped low and Darcy had to fight the impulse to fling her hands over her face. Not to hide him from her gaze - no, she'd watch between her fingers if it came to that - but to hide her from him. She was failing spectacularly at holding onto control of this situation. This power play was supposed to leave him exposed to her. Instead, he could see plainly how enthralled she was with his body.

His fingers slipped into the part of his trousers and Darcy had to bite her lip to stop herself from pouting as his hand began to move, hidden from her gaze.

This wasn't the deal. She was meant to be able to see. He'd been able to see so much, her cheeks still heated at the memory. Surely it was only fair that she'd see the same? Learn the same intimate details about him? Did he have underwear on? Did he grip himself firmly? Delicately? How did he like to be touched?

Darcy plucked up her courage and spoke softly, "Not good enough."

"You could come here and help."

"That's not part of the deal."

"A pity," he closed his eyes as his head dropped back against the sofa and his hand moved at a wickedly languorous pace.

"You like me watching you?" Darcy asked with a frown.

"I like everything you do, love." He cracked an eye and watched her, "I love your wide eyes, those parted lips ready to be tasted... I love that you're pressing your knees together, already wet for me, but too stubborn to give us what we both want. What we both need." She pressed her knees together with even more force, tugging gently at her skirt. "If you want more, Darcy, you must ask."

"More." Christ, did her voice crack?

"Be specific."

"I want to see."

"Uh uh," more leisurely strokes, "See what, love?"

She wasn't sure if this was her most hated or most favourite new game, but since she'd been the one to start this...

"I want to see your co-"

The window nearest to the sofa imploded in a blast of glass, her mind reeled momentarily before focussing on the still-vibrating arrow now firmly jammed into the sofa. Right between Loki's knees.

"Well that quite killed the mood," Loki remarked as he unhurriedly zipped up his trousers.

Chapter Text

Were Loki a better sort of beast, he might have taken the time to set himself to rights before returning to Darcy's apartment.

But, really, where was the gain in that? It made so much more sense, from a strategic viewpoint, to return to the woman wearing each ache and wound as a testament to the lengths he would go through to return to her side.

...and if he had to suppress his natural healing abilities to do so... Well, just because he was playing a long-game did not mean that he wouldn't take progress where the opportunity presented itself. It hadn't helped that the idiot archer had chosen such an importune time to let lose his revenge. Loki would have gladly taken the arrow to his gut, if only it had come some time later.

Even now, a handful of hours later, he had perfect recall of how she'd sat perched on her kitchen bench watching him. Oh, she'd tried to play coy, to shift and angle so that he wouldn't see the way that she'd pressed her knees together, the way her chest and neck flushed... and all the while it had been her command, her desire that had set him to playing with himself like a green lad.

His chest swelled at the thought. At least now he had some indication that she was not unaffected and with that in the back of his mind he shifted his weight so that his body took on an ungainly lean, reached up to rough up his hair and knocked on Darcy's front door.

The blow came so quickly that even he could be forgiven for missing it. He was yanked into her apartment, her little nails biting into his wrist, his cheek still stinging from the slap as she hauled him in through her bedroom and into a minuscule ensuite. She shoved him toward a crooked cabinet and he quelled his natural instinct to resist. She was stunning in her ire as she jabbed her glasses back into a more secure position on her nose, kicked the bathroom door shut and whirled to face him. She was breathing hard, her hair tousled and begging for his hands, she wore only an oversized threadbare shirt that hit mid-thigh and he ached to skim his hands up her thighs to her hips, just to learn what modern marvel of seduction she wore beneath it. Hopefully not the ones with the Patriotic Ponce on them.

"- the fuck, Loki?!"

"I-"

"- put Hawk into hospital? Made the late news? Levelled the nearest Starbucks? And let me tell you, that's no little sin. I had a thing going with the dude who took orders there, he never charged me for anything bigger than a Tall."

Darcy leaned forward, her unfettered breasts pressing against his chest and he knew a moment of genuine sorrow when he considered all the layers of his suit that stood between them. He lifted a hand to cup her-

With far more force than was strictly necessary, Darcy yanked open her medicine cabinet and smacked him in the back of the head. Loki lifted his hands in appeasement. "Am I to take, by the shortening of the name, that you have some familiarity with this Hawkeye?"

"That's the part you listen to?" Darcy huffed as she stood on tip toe to retrieve a small kit from the cabinet. Her shirt rode up on her hips revealing a single hot pink strip of lace. Loki let his head fall back against the cabinet with a groan.

"For what it's worth, I not only put the knave into hospital, I also escorted him there."

"After you stabbed him with his own arrow."

"Merely returning it after he so kindly interrupted our-"

Darcy snorted, grabbed his chin roughly and yanked his face to the side so that she could begin dabbing soaked gauze at the most obvious of his wounds. "The way Tony tells it, Hawk has some pretty legitimate grievances with you."

"Stark does like to tattle. Legitimate or not, I will not abide any weapon to be loosed upon you, Darcy."

"Not me. Hawkeye never misses," Darcy muttered as she dabbed a pungent and irritating solution against his skin.

"Indeed. And he is now well aware that any attack against you, against your home, is a strike against me. A man would be wiser to strike his own heart, as that is the only inevitable outcome."

She frowned at that, her spare hand unconsciously stroked at his jaw as she worked and he was reluctant to interrupt the moment.

"Loki," her voice was soft, "people could have been hurt."

"None were, I swear it. I am not so ignorant that I do not see that death pains you. The archer has been schooled, further grievances will be put to me alone."

"And you?" She shifted uncomfortably her eyes falling to the tiles as she continued, "They've beaten you before. You could have been hurt."

He hesitated, didn't trust himself to speak. It was no sweeping declaration, but it was a mild concern that he was unaccustomed to. Loki liked it more than he should have.

Long fingers ghosted up the side of her thigh, seeking out that thing strip of pink lace... "I am a hard man to discourage."

"No shit," she muttered as she swatted his hand away. He shifted his efforts to stroking the smooth skin of her wrist as she continued to minister to his wounds.

"I am truly sorry about your... Starbucks? If you are in financial difficulty I can..."

With a frustrated cry she tossed a bloody swab into the sink, then flopped herself down on the closed lid of her toilet. Shaky fingers wove into her tousled hair as she puffed out a few fortifying breaths. "You just don't... I don't know... get it? You don't get it. You are a bona fide, card-carrying, ruiner of lives! And you can't even see the damage you do. You are right about this world! We are all simple, little creatures of habit. We crave the norm, we fucking adore our status quo and you... you just can't leave shit alone!"

Loki didn't dare approach her, something was amiss beyond his reckoning. He remained perched against her tiny sink, all injury forgotten. Darcy did not dissemble as other women did, but if she was reluctant to share the full extent of her displeasure then he would simply have to discover the source of her frustration through alternate means.

"Tell me the full measure of my sins, love, so that I might atone. Tell me what I can do..."

"Go away?" She sounded so weary, as though she had not merely reached the end of her tether, but slipped it completely and fallen to a place where he could not follow.

"Forever?" He gripped the basin so tightly he feared he would turn the ageing porcelain to dust.

"Just... for now."

~*~

Nobody dug getting visitors in the small hours of the morning, Darcy knew that. But that didn't change the fact that she was wracked with a chronic case of verbal diarrhoea and some pretty limited outlets.

So, with limited options, Darcy found herself swiping her way into the private elevator of Stark Tower armed with a pack of saltwater taffy Pop-tarts and a bottle of Pop-tart flavoured vodka. The early hour and vague breakfast-like classification of the items made them, by Darcy's reckoning, perfect accompaniments for her call. The elevator stopped just a handful of levels short of Stark's penthouse and while Tony was privy to the messy emoti-bomb she was about to drop, the mere thought of further emotional engagement with him had Darcy muttering 'Oh, Hell-fucking-no' to herself.

She shuffled into Jane's foyer (well, Thor's foyer as well), she wasn't exactly dressed for calling on friends. She'd pulled in a pair of running tights (not that she could ever remember using them for that) and a ridiculously oversized Culver U sweater that had found it's way into her laundry three years ago and never left.

Across the foyer there was a flurry of movement as the door to the apartment was reefed open and 6'3 of bare-arse-naked bronzed Norse god came bounding toward her with all the enthusiasm of a concerned Labrador.

"Darcy! What is amiss?! Where is Loki? You should have summoned me with the medallion!"

The medallion she'd blu-tacked to the corner of her laptop at work? His voice carried through the foyer with a volume that should be illegal for that time of morning. If she needed proof that Loki had done a number on her, she had it. Thor stood before her in all his bulging (and, in parts, swinging) glory and while she still felt the need to treat Jane to a heartfelt high-five, she felt relatively unmoved in the lady-garden region. Pity.

"Okay, Thor, honey," Darcy smiled thinly as she juggled the vodka and Pop-tarts, "We've discussed this: company means pants."

"Ah," he said with a warm smile as he seemed to mentally downgrade the emergency, "But you are our Darcy. Not mere company."

The statement was warming and Darcy felt her smile grow a little more genuine as she watched Jane shamble into the foyer, do a double-take of Thor, sigh and greet Darcy with a little wave. At least Jane had bothered with pyjamas. "Are those Thor jammies?" Darcy asked.

Thor smiled broadly, "Indeed, I have a box! Would you like some?"

Jesus,they'd given him his own merch. Still, she could think of nothing more likely to put Loki off than seeing her in Thor PJs. "Two pairs if you can spare them."

Their tiny group fell into an odd silence (well, odd for the girls, Thor simply stood - and dangled - merrily). Darcy figured it had to be weird for Jane, they'd both grown so used to a world in which Darcy was the one who'd wrangled and managed Jane in the wee hours. Yet here she was, feeling every inch the loser but desperately needing someone to just listen while she offloaded the weight of the past few weeks.

"We have six hours to get white-girl wasted, hurl our guts up, shower and make it to work like responsible mammals," Darcy jiggled the vodka, "Oh, plus: Pop-tarts." She was trying too hard, it was obvious. Thor, not entirely oblivious, seemed torn between the gravity of her unusual appearance and joy at the unexpected windfall of Pop-tarts.

"Absolutely," Jane - bless her - didn't hesitate, "There's an indoor garden upstairs?"

"Done," Darcy gave a firm nod and spared a second to liberate two Pop-tarts for Thor.

"Am I to assume your woman's meeting does not require my presence?" Thor made a gallant attempt at not seeming wholly consumed by the Pop-tarts in his hand.

Jane waved him off. When they reached the garden Darcy gave a low whistle, the humid garden had to be the size of a basketball court and was populated with with a stunning array of tropical plants. There was something heartening about being in the garden, almost as if it was a reminder that she hadn't left all beauty and wonder behind on Asgard.

A quick sweep of the garden revealed a clearing with a wide wooden bench. There was every possibility that this was Tony's sex garden, a little oasis where he put the moves on Pepper, but for the next few hours it was going to be the secluded little arbor where Darcy spilled her guts.

"Yo, JARVIS," Darcy called as she set the vodka down on the bench, "Eine kliene Nachtmusik?"

Haim started to filter through the garden. "Excellent choice, dude." She never wanted to know the extent of the snooping that JARVIS indulged in during silent hours, she was just happy that he never seemed to be lacking when it came to her favourite tunes.

As with all important emotional scenes, they got the important stuff out of the way first. The Pop-tarts didn't last long and the bottle of vodka was at low tide when Darcy began rolling around in a waxy fern doing her best Bear Grylls impersonation. The last threads of Jane's laughter were still wearing through the undergrowth when Darcy leopard crawled back to the bench, rested her head against Jane's knee and huffed out a pained little sigh. "I got knocked up, man."

Jane blinked. Looked to the vodka. Blinked again then slowly began to pluck bits of fern out of Darcy's hair. "I don't want to alarm you, but there's a thing I need to tell you about a horse."

Darcy snorted and made a grab for the vodka, only to have her hand smacked aside by Jane. "The baby?"

She made a more forceful grab for the bottle, "I said I 'got' knocked up, not I 'am' knocked up."

"Well. Shit."

"Yup," a little vodka dribbled out the side of Darcy's mouth and onto her shirt.

"So you...? I mean that's fine. That's your call." Jane had finished deforesting Darcy's hair and started petting it clumsily.

"I wish it had been my call, I lost it." Darcy hated saying that. It wasn't like she'd misplaced her unborn child. More like something in her had been wrong, or broken, and she'd failed to keep it alive. There was guilt, if she was honest, not because of the relief - that was to be expected - but that she'd put off the official tests or visiting anything remotely like a health professional until that awful night had rolled around. Maybe a vitamin, or a scan, or less coffee or anything might have set her up for a different outcome.

It wasn't the first time she'd covered that ground, but that night in the garden was the first time that she'd voiced it. At first it was just stuttered and hiccuped softly, but eventually she sobbed every single doubt and hurt and grievance against Jane's tear-soaked pyjamas.

Funnily enough, even though she'd never acknowledged that her miscarriage had a single damn thing to do with Loki, she noticed that his name kept cropping up. His presence in her mind might have seem important if she weren't so drunk, but as it was his name just casually mingled with her tears and curses like some awful sort of bloodletting.

~*~

Thor had always prided himself on his integrity and honesty. He was not one to dwell in shadows and garner information through devious means. He consoled himself with the knowledge that he had approached the garden only to deliver further libation in the form of Jell-O shots that he had spent a good deal of time (and perhaps even a small measure of sorcery learned from his brother) creating.

Upon spying Darcy sobbing softly to Jane he should have made a hasty retreat, and he might have had he not heard his brother's name tumbling from Darcy's lips on a shuddery cry. Something of Loki's fiendish spirit must have been in him at that moment and he chose to tarry, perhaps to glean some small nugget of advantage that he might pass on to his brother to ease his suit.

Thor did not understand the whole of what he heard. Truthfully, he understood perhaps a fraction of what Darcy said at any given time and tears did not clarify her speech, yet he knew enough to garner the horrible truth of what she said.

A babe sired by his brother, but never for this world had passed some time ago, the ordeal borne in silence and pain by tiny Darcy. Darcy, who seemed so small. He supposed she could be like a scorpion at times, more wily and troublesome than others because of her small frame, and he both admired and lamented the strength of the sweet woman who had carried within her his blood (for he could never view Loki's issue as less).

The shots were quickly dismissed, drink would not ease her pain, and Thor crept back to his lodgings with the sensation of a heavy, dark weight behind his ribs. He felt as if a thick mass or tar was welling in his throat, the horrible compulsion to make known a miserable truth to his brother.

He waited in bed, torn and anxious, until Jane summoned him to come gather Darcy and tuck her into their bed. Darcy mewled and cuddled up to the empty bottle as her sleeping form wriggled and sought out the warmth of his side of the bed. The bed dipped as Jane crawled in behind her, flipping the bedding up to cover them both, then promptly falling asleep.

It was Thor's cue to safely separate Darcy from her bottle and make a quiet exit from the apartment.

~*~

Frankly, it was a freakin' miracle that Darcy made it to work at all, much less only a mere two hours late. Jane had protested pretty loudly when she'd woken at eight, taken a second to dash to the bathroom, then flounced out of the bedroom in search of shoes.

"You can't be serious."

"I have a normal-person job, Jane. That means nine to five."

"You work for Stark, nothing is normal about that." Jane sat up, picked up Darcy's shoes from beside the bed and threw them toward her. "Tell him we're in bed together. He'll give you the day off."

"In exchange for footage." Darcy hopped around as she tugged in her sneakers. She jiggled the front of her sweater to check for all the vitals like phone, cash and keys, then darted into the walk-in-robe to steal a ball cap. Shameless? Yes. Hangover hair in downtown NYC? No.

"Want to talk about it some more?" Jane asked from the bed.

"Drunken conversations work better when you're still drunk. Besides, you already helped."

And it had helped, hangover aside, she felt clearer. A little more grown up and, just maybe, a little more able to tackle some of the other issues she'd left to fester. Like Loki.

"Call me later?" Jane's voice was muffled as she snuggled back into the covers.

"Will do, Boss Lady."

If she hadn't needed to stop by her place for a shower and to devour a couple of aspirin she probably wouldn't have been late at all, but then she also would have missed the twelve cups of Starbucks coffee, all different varieties, all Ventis, sitting at her door. She'd been in the process of stuffing her wet hair into a nifty purple knitted cap when she'd yanked open her door and damn-near sent the trays of coffee flying. Instead, she executed a weird hop-skip-jump-abort thing and then sank down in the hall to stare at the coffees.

It was almost as if she was afraid to touch them. She did though, because coffee.

Something in the vicinity of her heart throbbed as she picked one of the still-warm drinks and toed the remaining coffees into her apartment. It didn't matter which variety she got, it was all coffee. It didn't even need to be good coffee and it occurred to her that this basically trumped any bunch of convenience store bought flowers that she'd ever been given.

Here was a guy who regarded himself as a god and he'd still managed to listen to her bitch about coffee shops. And sure, the bit where he was a murderous dick kind of sucked. But there'd been a marked decline in the people suffering as a result of his whims and he had shown some pretty remarkable restraint with Hawkeye.

The night before when he'd simply disappeared out her goddamn window had been far more discomforting than she would openly admit. Hours had passed and at first she'd gone for cool, calm and collected while watching reruns of Antiques Roadshow, but the time had kept ticking by and she'd begun to worry. Worst of all, she couldn't pinpoint who she was more worried for. What she did know was that her concern seemed to all circle back onto Loki. If Hawkeye was seriously hurt, things weren't going to look great. If Loki was hurt... well, that bit was obvious. And, really, Hawkeye had been hurt, but Darcy figured that a simple stabbing probably didn't register on the Avenger's 'injuries of note' list. She hoped.

Didn't mean that she wasn't a little nervous to find Tony kicking back at her desk, casually biting into the summoning medallion Thor had left her.

"I wouldn't," she advised as she swung her bag onto the desk and sank her empty cup into a trashcan, "I haven't totally worked out what that thing does, but it's Asgardian, so my bet is nothing good."

Tony dropped it with some reluctance. "Interesting night last night."

"I wouldn't know."

"You lie about as well as I do. Bad night, Miss Satana?"

Darcy jumped up onto her desk and gave Tony's feet a shove.

"Coitus Interruptus makes you mean."

"There was no coiting," Darcy crossed her legs and scowled.

"Not what I hear," Tony propped his feet in her lap, "Not that I'm one to bandy about confidential information like superhero secret identities, the agendas of secret squirrel meetings or, say, the defence posture of an organisation like SHIELD. But if I were..."

Darcy rolled her eyes and waited.

"...I'd say a certain crack shot is on a few shit lists for engaging a villainous mutual acquaintance of ours not thirty minutes after a briefing in which Deputy Director Hill advised that the official posture toward all visiting alien shit heads - that's your boyfriend in case I was being too subtle there - was to observe and avoid." God, he seemed please with himself. Tony was perhaps the biggest gossip whore Darcy had met. It was part of why they got along so well.

"You said Barton had a legitimate gripe." And Darcy got that. She'd seen what his douchebag disco stick had done to Erik, she couldn't imagine the damage it would do to someone as strong-willed as Barton.

"And he does. Told me to pass on that if you're that hard up for a lay, he thinks he might be free on Thursday."

"Charming," Darcy propped her elbows on his boots. "You came here to pimp out your bro?"

"Worth a shot. But, no. I'm more interested in the footage JARVIS sent my way this morning. Some sort of kinky threesome at Jane's place?"

Darcy snorted, "Jane will stop coming to science-y play dates if you spy on her."

"JARVIS is programmed to pick up any images that have a certain percentage of colours that fall in the flesh-coloured spectrum. Lot of Norse man-flesh in the clip. And you have a documented type."

Sometimes, she sort of just wanted to tase him. Probably someone would give her a medal. "FYI, there's a vaguely unstable Norse god kicking around who probably wouldn't be chill with you putting that little gem around the vines."

"Speaking of unstable. While you were rolling around in and laying waste to a rare Shenzhen Nongke Orchid in the gardens, your beau was levelling a city block."

Something rolled in Darcy's stomach, but the nausea was quelled before it ever really took hold. She just knew that Tony had it wrong. She didn't waste time in making sure he knew that too. "Absolutely not. He wouldn't, not now. Not when -"

"He's still trying his darnedest to get into your Star-Spangled Spanx?"

That was unfair. She almost never wore her Cap underwear anymore and Spanx were reserved for only the most formal occasions (and, presumably, the inner circle of Hell).

Tony shook her legs with his feet, "Calm down, I was being literal. Turned out that plans to rebuild a library there were on hold because there were issues with clearing the debris of the old one. Everyone wakes up this morning and, what d'you know, the block was cleared and primed. I'm not saying that he isn't the reason the place needed rebuilding in the first instance. But it makes you think..."

Really, she wasn't actually sure what to think, so she just pointed toward the door and suggested that Tony do his thinking elsewhere.

"You're aware that I own the building?" he asked as he backed out of the office.

"Absolutely. I just want you to own it from the outside."

With Tony out of the office and only the intern, Greg, over in the corner cajoling the photocopier, Darcy felt a little better as she slipped from her desk into her chair.

Well, shit. Did Loki throwing his skills behind a good cause make him less evil? It didn't make him good, even she knew that. But there was a chance it made him slightly less awful. It wasn't exactly like he'd advertised it either. He wasn't nipping at her heels, expecting some reward for services rendered and for some reason she felt like that had to count in his favour.

Of course, she could always just come out and ask Loki where he was sitting on the evil scale these days.

Darcy tipped over her bag and sorted through the debris until she found her phone. It seemed a little backwards to be asking Loki out on a date after all that had gone down (ha) between them. She wasn't even totally sure how to contact him, but she figured Thor would be a good place to start. It took her a couple of minutes to get the wording right, but eventually she fired off a 'Yo, where's your bro at? I'm warm for his form' (roughly paraphrased) type message and braced herself for one of Thor's customary, all caps, retina-searing reply.

~*~

Thor felt his phone stir in his pocket, he glanced at the message guiltily before stuffing it back down, unanswered. He'd spent the morning watching the sunrise from the expansive lawns of the park, hours had passed as his resolve to speak with his brother had hardened and now he only had to wait for Loki to attend him.

His brother fell into step beside him, just the hint of a swagger in his step.

"Brother, you seem pleased with yourself."

"Of course, it is a constant source of joy to live my lot. I am a prisoner on a leash, I've a reluctant lady love and you continue to sully my good name by calling me 'brother'." There was no heat in his words, but Thor could tell that circumstance continued to weary Loki. He did not relish the thought of compounding his brother's grief, but if Loki were to make any progress with Darcy he needed to understand that the path ahead was fraught with complexity and emotion that few men would rush to navigate.

If Thor didn't truly believe that Loki adored Darcy and her plucky ways he might have held his tongue. As it stood he felt destined to be a traitor, be it to the confidences of two women he held in the highest esteem or his own brother.

"Not that I'm not thrilledto be summoned to this fraternal council, but I do have some business to tend to, perhaps you can put your agenda to me with some haste?"

Thor cast his eyes around the park, then guided them down a less populated path. "I am burdened with ill-tidings."

Loki gave a rathe Gallic shrug. "And I am burdened with - to adopt a phrase from Darcy - 'zero fucks'."

A sharp bolt of electric anger struck Thor, how could Loki persist in maintaining such an insouciant front? Even without the child Loki had to see how the woman he claimed to love and adore was torn. Even without knowing the source of her sorrow, Thor had seen that. But now...

He seized Loki by the throat and thrust him up against a tree. "Look not only to yourself, brother. Your actions burden others. Your thoughtless rutting has burdened the only one you purport to love." He fixed Loki with a pointed stare, "Even now Darcy pays the price for your unchecked appetites! Did you give no thought to her protection? To her desires?!"

It was a rare sight to watch Loki so struggle with a concept. Realisation dawned slowly and brilliantly in his expressive eyes and too late Thor realised his mistake. Loki's joy had been a rare public spectacle at the coming of each of his children, it seemed the passing of time had not diminished his delight at the thought of a babe once more in his arms. Even with Thor's unforgiving grip around his neck, Loki's lips kicked up with the birth of a true smile. "A child?"

"No, brother, there is more-"

But Thor's rush of words were directed at only bark. The space where he had pinned Loki to the tree was empty.